The first 20 weeks of a puppy’s life is a crucial time for socialisation, as during this time they are more accepting of new experiences.
But what does socialisation actually mean?
Socialisation means positive interaction with other dogs, but this is only one aspect of socialisation. Socialisation is also allowing your dog to explore new environments and have new experiences to help them grow in confidence and understand their place in the world. These include:
- New environments. This includes parks, beaches, vets, shops, restaurants and cafes, bridges, rivers, puddles, rain, different textured floorings inc. wood, tile, carpet, gravel, tarmac, mud and grass.
- Other animals. Dog to dog interactions are a big part of socialisation but also consider the size, breed and age of the dogs as well as other animals like ducks, birds, cats, chickens, squirrels, sheep and cows. All puppies need to learn early on what to expect, who they can interact with and who to leave alone.
- New people. Allow your dog to say hello to all different types of people including children of all ages, adults young and old in different types of clothing. You will be surprised how many dogs are weary of people in hats and glasses. Don’t forget different voices!
- Noises. There are so many noises out there for a puppy to experience from indoor sounds like hoovers, slamming doors and objects falling to outdoors noises like trucks, cars, horns, trains and farm vehicles. Even a baby crying can be scary to a dog that has never heard one before.
- Handling. It is important to allow your dog time to be handled from his nose to his tail. This will come in handy at vet visits and when he goes to the groomers but it also includes giving him time to get used to brushing, nail trimming, ear cleaning, baths, wearing a harnesses, collars & coats, lifting & carrying, and being tethered and restrained.
How do I socialise my dog correctly?
- Turn every experience into a positive and rewarding experience
- Exposure alone is not socialisation, interaction is key to socialisation
- Never force your puppy into an interaction if they are uncomfotable as this could stick with them as a negative experience
- Your puppy is the only one who will determine if the interaction was positive, so look out for signs of distress or anxiousness, remove the puppy and try again in a different way
This time in a young dog’s life is time for us as owners to be proactive and guide our puppy to ensure they become self assured and well adjusted adult dogs.