The socialisation period is the early time in a puppy’s life where they learn how the things, noises, people and animals around them ‘fit’ into their life. This means learning which are safe and friendly, and which they should be scared of, and how to relate to these encounters.
Puppies are very open-minded during this period, and if they have a positive experience with something, they are much less likely to develop any phobias or issues regarding that encounter in the future. This makes the socialisation period the perfect time to get your puppy used to a wide range of experiences, including hearing lots of noises, meeting other animals and people, meeting children, and travel. The wider the range of events, environments and situations you can expose your puppy to the better, so long as your puppy always feels safe, happy and not overwhelmed.
There is some debate about the length of the socialisation period, but most specialists agree that it lasts from birth to between 12 and 16 weeks of age. This doesn’t mean that you should stop teaching your puppy new experiences after this age, it just means that they may be a little more wary. In fact, you should continue helping your puppy have positive new experiences throughout their life, and especially within their first year.
Well socialised puppies adapt well to new situations, are happy in the company of other pets and people, are much easier to exercise and travel with, and generally make easier and successful pets. Poor socialisation can sadly result in puppies which grow up fearful, shy and even aggressive.