You are getting a puppy and you hear the following phrase “socialise your puppy” quite often – what does it mean?
Socalisation is helping your puppy get used to people and other animals so that they do not develop a fear of them. Puppies have a ‘window’ in their development when socialisation activities are best performed. Habituation of your puppy is when you teach your puppy that strange experiences, objects and situations are nothing to be scared of.
At 5-7 weeks puppies are at their most curious, and willing to approach new things – however will show fearful behaviour. We say socialisation should start with the breeder and it is during these weeks the pup should still be in that environment with littermates and the mother. Between 8 and 12 weeks is when the puppy is most curious and most brave to learn about their new world. It is during these few weeks window that you should try and introduce your puppy to as many things as possible. We will go into what to show them a little late on.
As they grow they continue to learn and develop. At 4-8 months they become a ‘teenager’ pup! During this time the are quite a bit selective in their listening to commands and can push their luck. During the period of 6-14 months they become fearful of things they were previously fine with and you will likely need to readdress training.
How to socialise a puppy
You need to let your puppy experience something new and praise/reward the good, calm behaviour. You need to keep calm as your puppy will pick up on your emotions. You should aim to have completed most of the socialisation by 16 weeks of age. Don’t over do it, focus on introducing a few things a day is enough. If your puppy shows fear, remove them from the situation and try them again at a further distance. It is also a good idea to never allow the puppy to jump up or mouth during this time too.
Socialisation lists – Environmental factors to introduce your puppy to:
- Household appliance
- Postman/delivery men
- Loud noises including babies, fireworks & thunderstorms (check out helpful downloads and information you can get here!)
- The vets!
Animal factors to introduce your puppy to:
- Dogs of all ages, breeds, sizes
- Rabbits & other small pets
- Sheep & Cattle
- Horses with and without riders
People factors to introduce your puppy to:
- All ages – young to old
- All races and gender
- All physical abilities and sizes
- Waring beards, glasses, hats
- Running, cycling, skateboarding
- Carrying objects – umbrellas, walking sticks
Puppies can be vaccinated fro 8 weeks of age with the final injection being given at 10-12 weeks. Having their vaccination done early means they can go out earlier. We would recommend that they do not go on public highways until after they have received their full vaccination course, but this does not stop you from taking them places and carrying them to meet new and wonderful things!
The breed of your puppy may require you to be mindful of certain things and to focus on particular areas for socialisation.
Hounds: Try and encourage them to pay attention to you when there are interesting smells or other animals. Work hard on their recall early on.
Pastoral/Herding: Provide them with plenty of mental stimulation, occupy their minds so they do not go chasing and herding inappropriate things!
Terriers: Use toys and games to distract them from fast moving animals. Take extra care around small animals.
Toy: These are prone to separation anxiety, largely due to their size making them quite easy to carry around. Make sure to ensure they can cope on their own early on.
Working: Spend lots of time ensuring they are well socialised with other dogs and strangers. Utilise their natural working instincts with toys and games.
If your puppy is not socialised correctly then this has the potential to lead to fear and aggression problems in the future.
We run FREE puppy party classes for our registered clients at our Hillmorton surgery on Wednesday evenings. Please ask at reception to book in.
Click here for a great website to help you during your puppy socialisation adventures!
Mary Ray has written some great books on positive reinforcement training here