We’re often told how important the formation years are for your children. The same can be said for puppies albeit this period is much shorter so important to get right. The right puppy socialisation is an essential part in the development of a happy, well-rounded dog. For dogs to grow into friendly, comfortable adults, they need to be properly introduced to lots of other people, dogs and varied experiences as a young puppy.
Why puppy socialisation is important for you and your pup
The experiences your puppy has will help determine their future temperament and character. A puppy with negative experiences and poor socialisation can grow to be a very worried, anxious dog and is more likely to develop behavioural problems. Keep reading for the Scrumbles socialisation checklist and find out our top tips for happy sociable dogs…
the sooner the better
The younger your puppy is, the easier it will be to expose them to new experiences. Young puppies have no fear and will be much more open to trying new things and meeting new people. Depending on the breeder and situation, puppies flock the nest from 8-12 weeks and will be ready to start experiencing new things as soon as they get home.
A new puppy is both playful and daring. So, this is the best time to introduce them to as many things as possible. Even whilst they are with their mothers, you can start to socialise a pup with frequent visits. But bear in mind, until your puppy is fully vaccinated, they should be house bound!
Your puppy will have a course of two vaccinations. The first should have already been sorted by the breeder at 6-10 weeks old. The second vaccination is usually given two to four weeks later. If you’re getting your puppy before the second vaccination, check with your vet to find out when it’s due. Remember your puppy won’t be fully protected until a week after the second vaccination. So until then, unless you know a dog is fully vaccinated it’s best to keep socialisation to humans only.
As soon as your puppy is ready to brave the outside world, get out there and adventure together. Sign yourself up to local puppy classes, walk around your local parks – a great way to meet other dogs and owners and invite friends over to let your puppy interact with as many new people and furriends as possible. The more people and furry things your puppy meet, the more sociable they’ll become. Get them used to as many experiences as possible like loud sounds and taking them on car journeys.
If you rescue or adopt an older puppy say 18 weeks onwards, then you will need to get started right away. It is harder to socialise an older puppy or dog who may have become more cautious but not impossible. Act fast! This is the perfect time to enrol in a puppy class or playgroup. The more time you can spend interacting with other people and dogs, the better.
Our top tip is to always keep a bag of treats on you at all times. Have you spotted our new Softies Training Treats? These have a soft texture for easy-eating and breaking up. Available in two flavours Chicken & Duck or Salmon.
Take your puppy to get properly fitted for a collar or harness and lead. Practice putting it on and off in the house and garden before venturing into the big outdoors. Particularly for an excitable tugging puppy, we’d recommend a harness over a collar. It's more comfortable for them and avoids them feeling strangled when they tug. A non-extending lead is best for puppies as you have more control over where they go.
taking your puppy to the vet or groomers
You’ll benefit from taking a trip to the vets in these first few weeks. Not only will you need to check your pup’s health, introducing the vet early in life will help your pooch see it as a safe place later in life. The vet can be a daunting environment for dogs of all ages. It’s full of new sights and experiences. The more comfortable you can make your puppy feel at the vets, the easier trips will be in future.
Similarly, if your dog is likely going to take trips to the groomers later in life, take the opportunity to have them visit early on. Many groomers offer puppy sessions. This gives your puppy the chance to get comfortable with them, even if it’s just for a quick wash.
So how can you help? Get your puppy used to being handled. Spend a few minutes daily, opening their mouths to look at their teeth, looking inside their ears and touching their paws. These are all the same things the groomers and vets will do, so get your puppy comfortable with these experiences now so that it’s not a big deal for them when they get their regular check-ups and grooms.
consistency is key
Setting clear boundaries for your puppy in early life is a must for creating lifelong habits. After choosing a set of rules for your pup, you need to make sure everyone in the family is on board and will stick to the same rules. There’s little point you trying to keep your pooch off the furniture if the kids let him snuggle up whenever you leave the room!
You’re also going to be living by the phrase “if at first it doesn’t succeed, try and try again”. Generally, puppies are excited by new experiences and people and will embrace them with lots of enthusiasm. However, if your puppy is shy or cautious the first time it’s introduced to new people or objects, don’t give up! Equally don’t force it. Simply let him or her remove themselves from the area and try again at a later date. Your shy pup will need more support from you to build their confidence and help them grow into an adventurous, daring dog.
Before introducing anything new to your puppy, it’s important to be in the right environment to keep your furry friend safe and comfortable. Don’t try to rush into too many new things and overwhelm your pup. If you want to build consistent habits – which, with a puppy, you should! – start with a calm dog anytime you’re introducing anything new. If your puppy is already worked up, they won’t be as receptive of the new experience as you would want. The idea is to ensure these early experiences are positive so that they enjoy them in the future. One thing at a time is best to begin with. So, if your puppy is meeting a new friend, consider hosting the meeting in a familiar environment, where your dog feels safe.
And always remember positive reinforcement with lots of praise or a treat ready to reward your pup whenever they approach anything new.
meeting the family
Of course, you’re going to want to introduce your new best friend to the rest of the family straight away. As long as any adult dogs are well and have had all their vaccinations, you’re fine to let them meet. It’s important to make the experience a positive one for both dogs. If either animal starts to become overwhelmed or scared, remove the puppy from the situation and distract them with toys.
As with all new experiences, your pup should be introduced to other animals at their own pace. It’s essential that your puppy is introduced to a variety of animals as a youngster, so they will be comfortable as an adult dog. If you have other pets (like cats, rabbits or hamsters), make sure they are all comfortable around each other before leaving them alone together.
We know children will be desperate to play and cuddle your new pup, but this can be overwhelming and intimidating for Fido. Kids don’t behave like adults and need to be shown how gentle to touch puppies and dogs. Always supervise until you’re comfortable both child and pup are well accustomed to one another. Have plenty of toys and treats available and let the puppy lead the way. They’ll be happy to play and be stroked and best friends in no time!