Why socialising your puppy is important

© Rocher | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock PhotosIt is important to start to socialise your puppy after a day or so of bringing him home. During the first 16 weeks of his life, your puppy is learning to associate what he feels are good things and bad things.  Puppies live in a world with humans and need to know how to relate to us more than anything else.  How sociable your dog is will be is determined by the experiences it has first with the breeder and then with you as a puppy, especially those it has before the age of 12 weeks.  Before 12 weeks old, a puppy is open and trusting and will generally approach anybody and anything without fear.  At 12 weeks a puppy will start to approach new things with caution.  This is natural for all puppies.  If you have missed this crucial period, socialisation can and should still be done, but taking into account the fact that your puppy will be more reticent and possibly fearful.  

 As well as humans, puppies need to be able to interact with other animals such as dogs, cats, wildlife and if live in or go to the countryside, livestock.   They also need to be exposed to different environments. 

 Puppies need to be continually socialised and exposed to different environments up to the age of one year if they are to stay sociable.   Puppies that have been well socialised make better pets so it is important that you focus on doing this as soon as you get your puppy home. 

 Vaccination v socialisation

 Puppies are susceptible to disease, but isolating a puppy until after vaccinations can cause no end of problems so a compromise has to be reached.  The most important part of socialisation is with humans and not dogs so the simple ways to your puppy protect are:

  • Do not allow your puppy to mix with other dogs unless you know they are up-to-date on their vaccinations.
  •  Do not take your puppy to parks or other areas where dogs might foul.
  •  When taking your puppy to non-doggy areas – e.g. to your child’s school, carry your puppy so they can experience the sights and smells without the risk of disease.

How much time should be spent on socialisation?

 You should be aiming for 30 minutes each day from the day you get your puppy home.  This should be split into 3 or 4 short sessions.

 How to socialise your puppy

Meeting new people

Puppysocialisation2645628763 81390d1635 bIt is important to expose your puppy to people of all different ages because when puppies have met all different types of people and had positive experiences they tend to apply this in the future to all people and react positively to everyone.  Treat your puppy the same as having a new baby in the house.  Invite friends and family around to meet the new puppy and spend time with him or her. You may have to be creative.  If you do not know children, take your puppy to the local school gates.  If you do not know elderly people, ask your local residential home if you can take your puppy in.  You will be very popular as most people love a puppy.

 When your puppy is meeting new people, ask them to stand still and not to reach out with their hands.  Let your puppy go to them voluntarily and to sniff them.  Crouching down is a lot less threatening to a puppy as is talking to them in a soft high pitched voice. You could also use a treat from a person he doesn’t know to make the meeting process a really enjoyable event for him. 

As well as aiming to get your puppy to meet as many different people as possible, also let them experience hats, umbrellas, glasses, wheelchairs etc


Your puppy should be picked up, handled and talked to.  Gently teach your puppy to be handled, examining its ears, teeth, mouth and tails.  Also gently pinch the skin at the back of the neck which is where most vet injections will be made.  Your puppy needs to learn to accept being gently restrained.  Hold onto your puppy lightly when it struggles and let it free when it relaxes.  DO NOT pin your puppy down at any time, you will frighten him or her and undo all the good work you are doing. 


http://www.flickr.com/photos/randysonofrobert/297056042/Playing with toys is an important part of this process.  Puppies have to learn to play with toys and some are more interested in toys than others.  Use toys that have a variety of textures and can be easily carried around by your puppy.  Always have a toy between you and your hands as this helps to reduce play biting.  PUT TOYS AWAY after each session so a puppy doesn’t get bored with them.

It is natural for puppies to chew.  Provide your puppy with suitable things to chew on such as a rubber Kong and fill this with peanut butter/meat paste etc to keep the puppy occupied. Do not allow them to destroy their toys and keep them under supervision so they do not chew items such as shoes. 


http://www.flickr.com/photos/airbeagle/465830997/Different Scents

If you can’t bring your puppy into contact with everything you would like while it is young, allow your puppy to smell things.  For example, ask a friend with a cat to wipe a cloth over the cat.  Ask a friend with a baby to do the same.  Hang the cloths up around your home and let your puppy sniff them.  Scent is very important to dogs and this will help familiarise your puppy to new scents.   

Collar and lead

Introduce a soft collar to your puppy during your socialisation sessions.   Once they are used to the collar, clip a soft lightweight lead on while they are eating their food so that they get a good association with the lead going on.  Initially allow them to drag this around after them.  Supervise them so it doesn’t get caught up but do allow them to step on it and for it to snag so that they will get used to having pressure on it.  After a few days, pick up the lead and wander around gently encouraging your puppy to follow you.  If your puppy panics, drop the lead.  This is the foundation of good lead work and if done properly will stop your puppy pulling in later life. 


http://www.flickr.com/photos/jelene/3556918649/If your puppy meets and has pleasant encounters with other dogs at an early age it will help them later in life.  Arrange for any friend or family member to bring around their (vaccinated) dog.  All play should be supervised.  A puppy should not be allowed to provoke the older dog or the older dog will feel that it has to put the puppy in its place. 

The majority of cats can happily coexist with a dog if they are given time to comfortably get to know each other.  Take a few minutes each day to supervise time together with your cat and puppy.  Allow them to sniff and inspect each other.  Never leave a cat and puppy alone together until you are certain that they are comfortable with each other.  An unsupervised interaction could traumatize either your cat or puppy so badly that it remains terrified of other animals for the rest of its life.

If your puppy will be spending time around horse, sheep, chickens or other livestock, you will need to introduce your puppy on a collar and lead.  Allow your puppy to check out the livestock.  Keep calm at all times as livestock running away could trigger your puppies prey instinct. 

Different experiences

You should aim for your puppy to have at least one new experience per day.  This can range from

  • Running normal household appliances
  •  Taking your puppy to the road to experience the sounds and smells of traffic
  •  The postman / paperboy / dustbin men etc.
  •  Travelling in cars, on buses and on train
  •  Going to the Veterinary Surgery
  •  Hearing loud noises
  •  Hearing and smelling the family cooking food.
  •  Supervised access to the garden
  •  Experience and exploration of different surfaces such as carpet, laminate, tiling, grass etc
  •  Meeting People with beards / glasses / hats etc
  •  Seeing people running / jogging / skateboarding / cycling etc.

Never overwhelm your puppy with too much at once, and always allow them plenty of time for sleep and rest between each encounter.

Quick Socialisation Check List

  • Arrange for new adults and children to visit.
  • Each family member to handle your puppy every day
  • Pick up and hold your puppy gently every day.  Stroke and examine them all over
  • Familiarise with handling and gentle restraint until accepted
  • Teach puppies to play with toys
  • Provide items to chew
  • Provide cloths with different smells on.
  • Meet cats and other animals within your home
  • Familiarise with collars and leads
  • Carry to the road to see and hear traffic
  • Provide the opportunity to explore new surfaces
  • Take out to meet other animals and people
  • Take your puppy on short car, bus and train journeys
  • Go on outings to other people's houses, the vet, school etc.

 For further information, prices and to find out how I can help you with your puppy

Call Freephone 0808 100 4071





template joomla 1.7

© 2012 - Bark Busters Home Dog Training