As you look in to those gorgeous puppy-dog eyes, you’ll likely feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility for your new puppy’s wellbeing. If it’s your first puppy then you may not realise that an essential part of their puppyhood is about learning how to socialise with other dogs and people. These early experiences help to shape and mould your dog’s character and behaviour in the future. How to socialise a puppy is largely about knowing the ‘tricks of the trade’. Here are our 10 easy ways to puppy socialisation.
My First Puppy – How to Socialise
- Realise the importance of socialising puppy at the right age
There’s a unique window between 3 and 12 weeks when it is crucial that a puppy meets a good mixture of people, dogs, other animals, places and situations. Focus on socialisation at this stage and you’ll have a friendly, sociable dog who is at ease wherever you are, making your life easier and their enjoyment greater. After 12 weeks, socialisation is still important and vital, but new situations will be met with a little more wariness. Given that most puppies are only with their lifetime owners for a few weeks before 12 weeks you want to really concentrate your efforts at this time.
- Begin slowly and think ‘little and often’
The trick in the early days is to get a good amount of different socialisation experiences without overwhelming your little one. So start with low-key socialisation opportunities which don’t last long, then build up the frequency and duration. Importantly, you want your puppy meeting a wide variety of people. They need to be socialised around adults, children, the elderly and infirm, and yes, even the vet.
- Make it pleasurable
In order to socialise a puppy successfully for an adulthood of good behaviour, you want the experiences to be pleasant and enjoyable for your pup. Allow strangers to feed your puppy treats provided by you, or engage with them with their favourite toy. Lead strangers in how much interaction your puppy is comfortable with. Keep an eye out for if your puppy is showing any signs of distress, and if so, move them away.
- Let them rest
Puppies are just babies and they really need their sleep to be at their best! Socialising is hard work, full of excitement and expending energy, when they are so young. Therefore, make sure they aren’t overstimulated and get plenty of chance to nap.
- Engineer encounters
Whilst simply heading out and about can be great for socialisation experiences, some situations you’ll need to manufacture. Think about how you can ensure your puppy encounters a broad range of experiences, especially those which you don’t often come across. For example, if you don’t have children it is still vital to ensure your dog is exposed to them during their puppyhood. Puppy classes are a great example of engineered socialisation with added benefits too.
- Let them have a way out
Don’t force your puppy in to a socialisation they are wary of, let them come in their own time. Similarly, don’t hold them and pass them to someone, or drag them on the lead. Let them have autonomy so they can judge when they want to move away from a situation.
- Expect a telling off from older dogs
It’s very important that puppies learn their place and respect for older dogs. A playful puppy, socialised well with older dogs, will likely have an experience or two of being taken down the pecking order a little by the more experienced hound. Don’t panic, this is a good lesson. Just keep focused and remove the puppy if it’s going too far.
- Teach them control around other animals
During puppyhood is the time to let your dog ‘meet’ a range of other animals particularly horses and farm animals that you may encounter on walks. It’s important that they learn that distance is important here and must be prevented from chasing.
- Move around
Whilst waiting for vaccinations you are more restricted, but as soon as you can, make sure socialisation also includes a range of different environments. This is the window of time when you want to get your puppy familiar with everything from a car journey to traffic noise to the dark.
- Get help
Realistically, with a busy life and limited time and resources on your hands, it can be a tall order to socialise a puppy successfully during its first year. At The WAG Club doggy daycare, we see the benefits of puppy socialisation in a short window of time. Puppies in our daycare have their own room but are also carefully introduced to other dogs, a range of people, and taken on a broad range of walks. This means that the important task of socialisation is being taken care of, even when you’re busy.
How to socialise a puppy is not complicated, but it does require consistent effort. Find out more about doggy daycare and how The Wag Club offers exceptional care by contacting us today.