Socialisation is one of the most important things you can do for your
puppy as it helps them become friendly and outgoing. It’s all about
getting them to meet people and other animals – and experience lots of
everyday sights and sounds, especially in the first few weeks of life.
Socialisation has a big influence on your puppy. It will affect their behaviour and temperament for the rest of their life. A well-socialised puppy is more likely to grow up to be a friendly and outgoing dog. If it’s not done properly, then it leads to problems as adults. They are more likely to have anxiety and fear, have behaviour problems, be aggressive – which can result in them being given away to rehoming centres or even being put to sleep. Tragically, this happens to thousands of dogs every year. But it can be simply avoided...
Puppies need to be socialised when they are young because of the way their brains develop. Between 3 and 8 weeks, a puppy wants to explore everything that’s new. But, after about 8 weeks, their brain changes. They are more likely to be nervous of new things and back away.
So what should you do to help their behaviour before 8 weeks?
Get them meeting people and animals, exploring different places, enjoying new experiences. The earlier you start socialisation, the better. It starts the moment they are born. You should get a puppy from a place where it has been amongst everyday sights and sounds, like the vacuum cleaner, TV, hi-fi and washing machine.
Is socialisation important after 8 weeks?
Yes. Their brains are still developing, but they will be naturally wary of new people and situations. So the way you handle their encounters is very important to make sure they stay relaxed and unafraid.
Do puppies need their vaccinations before they can meet other animals?
Yes. This is important to help protect them from diseases before they start meeting other animals. Puppies should be with their mother until 8 weeks of age and then go to their new home. You should then contact your vet to find out when they can be vaccinated. Some puppies will need their first vaccination – and then a second one a couple of weeks later, depending on your vet’s advice. Others will have already had one vaccination, arranged by the breeder – and will be due for a second.
What are the golden rules to socialise my puppy?
- The experiences must be good.
If your puppy seems anxious or afraid when they’re doing or seeing something new, just calmly end what they’re doing. Don’t try to comfort or reassure your puppy as this will make them think there was something to be scared about. Just be positive and upbeat and do something different. This is very important because otherwise your puppy can develop fears and phobias.
- Build up new experiences gradually.
E.G. Go to a local row of shops before a shopping precinct; a quiet road before a busy road etc. When your puppy is calm and relaxed, give them occasional praise and healthy treats so that they enjoy the experience.
- Don’t introduce too many new experiences in one day.
Three a day is a sensible number, Repeat them as often as possible once your puppy is happy with them.
Don’t let their play get too boisterous.