Socialisation - Socialising A New Puppy

Don’t forget the home environment

Your puppy will need to get used to the sounds of normal everyday life.  She may not like the hoover or the lawnmower, the washing machine or food mixer!  The more familiarity she has with these in this period the more relaxed she’ll be in the future.  Do not force her into any situation, but also do not comfort her when she gets upset.  By offering comfort you are praising her for being afraid, and suggesting this is the right reaction.  Let her come to terms with it in her own way. 

Bess did not like being outside when the lawnmower was going - but she was happy to watch the grass eating monster at work from the other side of the patio doors! 

Try to make sure that any noisy equipment is used during this period.  Bess was particularly scared at first of anything noisy, but by the 12th week when we had to fit a stairgate to prevent her running upstairs, she sat and watched inquisitively as we used the drill!  And the smells coming from the kitchen whilst I was using the food mixer helped her overcome her fear. 

Vaccinations complete!

One the vaccinations are complete the world is your oyster, and you should use every opportunity you can to socialise your puppy. 

Enrol her into puppy obedience classes - apart from the trainer being able to help you with any problem or concern you might be having (for example house training or biting), these classes will introduce her to being around others of a similar age and teach her the right behaviours such as walking past another dog without having to play!  The classes will teach basic obedience training such as ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘walking at heel’, and ‘stay’.    Being with other owners will help you too, as you can take solace in the fact you are not alone with any problems! 

Puppy playing during socialisation

Why Socialise a Puppy?

Puppy meeting Horse
What a puppy experiences during the first 16 weeks of her life will have a great influence on what kind of dog she’ll be as an adult.  The more she meets and learns how to deal with new situations during this period, the more settled she’ll be later on.

Socialisation should have started before you bring your puppy home, and your breeder should have allowed visitors to meet the puppies, and they should have been well handled so they are not scared by strangers picking them up from the litter.  It is an unfortunate fact that the time they should be exposed to new and different situations overlaps with the period when they are not allowed to mix with other dogs, or to go to places where other dogs might have been to avoid picking up serious diseases.  Normally all vaccinations will have been completed by 12 weeks, but this only leaves 4 weeks of this critical period to get your puppy exposed to as many sights and sounds as possible.

What sort of experiences does a puppy need?

Puppies need to be exposed to as many new situations as they can during this important socialisation period.  People of all ages (particularly children), wheelchairs, bicycles, other dogs and other animals and all the sorts of noises they may come across later in life.  She needs to meet as many of the sights and sounds now as she will ever come across. 

Before vaccinations are complete

Although they cannot mix with other canines, you can take a pup out before the vaccinations are complete, as long as you do not let her on the ground.  Anything you can show her, do. Tractors, lorries, dust carts, farm animals.  Everyone you meet will love a puppy, so it's a good opportunity for her to be passed around a number of people (old and young, male and female).  Take her out visiting with you (as long as any dogs you meet are vaccinated).  Some people carry their dog around boot sales to get them used to crowds and different noises. 
Introduction to the family pony
Most vets agree that as the period of socialisation is so short, more harm can be done to the well being of the future adult than minimal exposure to the risk of picking up a disease.  My vet agreed, for example, that two dogs whose vaccinations were up to date could come and visit so Bess could experience other dogs coming into her home.  Check with your vet before exposing your dog to any potential sources of infection, always err on the side of caution, but do take opportunities to socialise your new addition with other canines, and with people and children of all ages. 
Puppy meeting other dogs
Meeting new dogs in the home environment
You can start taking her out on a lead - firstly in a quiet area to get her used to the new appendage, and then in a variety of situations such as town centres and busy parks.  People will want to stroke and pet a young puppy which should be encouraged as a dog who’s afraid of strangers could bite someone out of fear in the future.  Waiting with her outside a supermarket will get her used to people coming and going - and also used to people ignoring her. 

Some people do not like dogs, even an engaging puppy.  Remember to reward her for NOT trying to greet everyone like a long lost friend. 
You’ll come across a variety of other dogs - try to start letting your dog greet them (as long as they are friendly) but then get her to come to you.  A flexi lead so that you don’t risk her running off with her new friend, and treats as a reward when she turns away and comes back to you are very helpful.

It goes without saying that now is the time to get her used to travelling in a car.  Make sure all your car trips are not visits to the vet!  If she is nervous in the car or a poor traveller, make short journeys to somewhere fun.  She’ll soon look forward to jumping in the car!  Remember other vehicles too - try to let her see bicycles and motorbikes. 

If you have access to places where animals are kept, try to expose her to horses, chickens, cattle and sheep.  None of these are for chasing, so reward her for appropriate behaviour.  It’s right for her to show an interest, but not to approach, and to return to you when called.  Bridle paths are good for walking a puppy (under control) as you’ll hopefully come across horses being ridden, cyclists whizzing past and people out jogging.  Get her used to standing to one side, and reward her for keeping still and out of the way and NOT going after them.   

Whatever you can show her at this stage and the response you expect from her, and reinforce the correct response with a reward will help develop a trustworthy companion for the years to come. 
Playing and socialising with a friendly Border Terrier
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Pages you might like to view next:

Vaccinating your puppy
First Walks with your puppy
Puppy Training Classes
STAND! A Complete Guide to Showing your Dog from Companion to Champion A fantastic new book that takes you through everything you need to know about dog showing, from training your puppy to showing at Crufts and even abroad!  Available in paperback or for Kindle.