Dog running down a boardwalk towards you

The importance of socialising your puppy

The world is very different from that in which dogs’ ancestors evolved and everyday items and situations can be scary if your dog hasn’t encountered them previously. As such, it is really important for your puppy to learn how to positively interact in a variety of scenarios and with different people and animals so that he can go through life with confidence.

Socialising your puppy is part of their training and learning. Here we explain you how to do it.

What is socialisation?

Most animals have a length of time early in their lives when they have greater mental plasticity and are better able to learn how to behave. This is called the socialisation period which, in dogs, takes place between 3 to 12 weeks of age.

It is important to choose a breeder who knows to expose their puppies to as many stimuli as possible during this critical time period. Good breeders will ensure that their puppies are brought up around various items in positive scenarios so they learn there is nothing to be worried about.

Even when you bring your puppy home, it would be a good idea to slowly and gently introduce them to these main stimuli in a positive manner as they are a common cause of anxiety in dogs:

  • firework sounds
  • hoovers and other household items
  • car trips
  • going to the vets
  • children
  • other animals

People often take their puppy home, and away from their mothers, from 8 weeks of age, which provides lots of time to allow for these introductions. Take it slowly so as not to overwhelm your puppy and if he puppy shows any worry or concern at any point, then remove him from the situation and repeat the exposure again at a later point but from a further distance.

It is important to note that until your puppy is fully vaccinated it should not come into contact with any other dog or be placed on ground that may be infected by an unvaccinated dog therefore avoid public areas. Ask your vet for information about local Puppy Parties which are great opportunities for young dogs to make new friends and learn in the process.  

Socialising your puppy with other dogs

Letting your puppy meet adult dogs is really important too. How better can a puppy learn how to behave politely and calmly than from other dogs that are already behaving that way?

Puppies can learn to use the communication signals that they may have learnt from their mother when they were younger and how to behave appropriately around other dogs. There may be a bit of telling off involved, but don’t worry – your puppy will quickly bounce back and learn how far they can push their boundaries.

Though always supervise the encounters to ensure that you can intervene if the adult dog gets frustrated or if your puppy becomes overwhelmed.  

It is important for your puppy to meet a variety of dogs of different sizes, breeds and temperaments. If your puppy has been introduced to walking nicely on the lead, it is recommended to meet other dogs in this way.

If another owner is happy to do so, approach another dog slowly whilst rewarding your puppy for being calm, polite and having a positive body position. This will only really be effective if they have good lead manners, if not they are likely to be bouncing at the end of the lead to meet their potential new friend!

The most important thing to remember when socialising your puppy is to try and ensure that each exposure is a positive one. Luckily, if an experience is negative, you can often counteract this by taking the next exposure slowly and maintaining positive reinforcement.