The Puppy Socialisation Period
The socialisation period lasts until your puppy is about sixteen weeks old, so it’s really important to think about the socialisation period as early as possible!
More about the puppy socialisation period
Once you have brought your puppy home, you have only a short window to finalise their socialisation period – at maximum a mere eight weeks! It’s really important to use this time wisely to get your puppy used to lots of different situations, especially those they will be encountering regularly within your home and lifestyle.
Don’t forget that you cannot walk your puppy in parks or on pavements, or take them anywhere unvaccinated dogs may have been, until they have had their second vaccination and this has had time to take effect. This also limits the time you have available, and may mean you have to be creative in some of the ways you socialise your puppy.
Some suggestions include:
- Playing noises such as thunder/train/traffic on the internet so your puppy has heard them. You can also buy specific sound CDs for this purpose always start quietly and work your way up with the volume.
- Taking your puppy for exciting car rides make sure they are appropriately restrained, and keep an eye out for any signs of car sickness.
- Meeting vaccinated dogs Your puppy can meet fully vaccinated dogs in a safe area, such as their garden or yours. This is a great way to learn social skills.
- Meeting lots of people. The more people your puppy meets the better, so long as they enjoy themselves. Think about all the variety where people are concerned, and try and introduce your puppy to everyone. Things like age, race, body shape and headwear can make someone look very different to a puppy!
- Don't forget about children. Even if you don't have children of your own, children are likely to show interest in your dog throughout their life. Children often interact with dogs very differently to adults and can be much less predictable. Helping dogs get used to children during the socialisation period will make it much easier for them to be around children as they grow up.
- Visiting the vet - Early vet visits often come with a needle, and this can set dogs and vets off on the wrong foot for life. Popping into your local Vets4Pets with your new puppy for a cuddle with the team and some treats (and no needles!) is a great way to teach your puppy that the vets isn't a place to be scared of.
Good puppy parties can be a really great way to supplement your training, but should never be a replacement. Poor puppy parties however can be detrimental, so it’s important to understand what is being offered.
Puppy parties are designed to teach your dog how to interact with other dogs and with people, as well as giving you the chance to get some great hints and tips too. What is important is that the puppies are kept under control – the ‘free for all’ approach to puppy parties can actually be damaging, as fearful puppies become more fearful as other puppies run around or at them. The charging around puppies that may appear confident are also often at risk, as they may be trying to mask a lack of confidence with pushy and controlling behaviours. This can develop into behaviours such as nipping and growling, which can perpetuate further poor behaviour as other dogs react badly to these interactions. Although watching a room full of puppies run around can seem great, it’s best to avoid puppy parties that offer this – controlled introductions are a much better way to help your puppy get used to making new friends.
Ideally puppy parties are:
- On lead except in certain cases, where more fearful puppies might benefit from being unrestricted.
- Informative you should feel that it is a place to ask questions and get them answered.
- Fairly quiet. If puppies are barking, they may be getting distressed or distressing others. Trainers should be stepping in to help with vocal puppies, and keeping the environment calm.
- Age restricted - puppies should be around the same developmental stage, which will help them.
- Not overcrowded, a crowded puppy party will mean the trainer cannot give individual advice as puppies meet, and also may create an environment that is just too intimidating for a shy puppy.
Don’t be afraid to ask what happens at your local puppy party, or go along ahead of time to visit one and see if you feel it would benefit your puppy. Good puppy parties can be really helpful, and a great way to support your puppy’s socialisation.