Puppy socialisation is one of the most important steps in your puppies long-term development. Without it, behavioural problems could start to arise.
Socialising your puppy means teaching them how to be well-behaved around other animals and humans, as well as growing their confidence to feel comfortable in various situations and environments..
Why Is Puppy Socialisation Important?
The more exposure your puppy receives during the early stages of their life to various environments, people, smells and animals the quicker and more comfortable they’ll feel in the world around them. Well-adjusted, confident dogs with the ability to adapt to different social environments are often a byproduct of a well-socialised puppy.
A puppy with fewer interactions can often lead to negative behavioural traits including nervousness, aggression or in some cases separation anxiety. Not to mention it can limit what you can do with your puppy and where you can take your puppy if these skills aren’t taught from the onset. Teaching your puppy to socialise with other people, animals and environments may be the most important training you will ever do together.
When Is the Best Time To Start Socialising a Puppy?
Puppies have what is called a critical socialisation period during the first three months of their life - this is the most important time to start socialising your puppy. Puppies are extremely impressionable during the first three months of their life. Their experiences during this learning and development period will help to shape their behaviour well into adulthood.
Being proactive in providing opportunities for socialisation and exposure to various environments will help your puppy grow into a well-adjusted adult dog that has the ability to relate positively to other dogs, people and environments.
How To Properly Socialise Your Puppy
The easiest way to begin socialising your puppy is to introduce them to new faces, sights and smells, as well as take part in varied experiences to allow them to grow their confidence and learn how to behave in individual situations.
During your puppy’s training, It’s important that you’re aware of yourself to know whether you’re sending the right signals. The golden rule? Encourage curiosity. When your puppy is actively exploring a new environment with confidence and curiosity, it’s important to respond to this behaviour with an equal level of positivity. By providing plenty of verbal praise and encouragement it will teach your puppy to be curious and open-minded about new experiences and encourage this sort of behaviour in future.
1: Take Your Puppy For Daily Walks
Daily walks are fundamental for helping your puppy grow comfortable with the world around them as well as help to condition your puppy to unnerving noises from the outside world.
A common misconception is that puppies have the innate ability to walk on a leash beside you without training. We’re here to tell you that this isn’t true.
It’s important to train your puppy to walk on a leash calmly beside you without expecting too much of them initially. Though we encourage you to take your puppies outside to sniff and explore (on-leash) during their training so as they can grow accustomed to the world around them.
2: Invite Friends Over To Your House
It’s important to expose your puppy to as many new faces as possible to allow them to acclimatise to the idea of being around strangers more often without showing signs of nervousness or fear. In doing this, your puppy will learn to spread their affection rather than only reserving their love for their owner and growing wary of anyone else coming into their space.
3: Take Your Puppy To Puppy School
Puppy school is a two-fold system, it helps puppies grow into confident, sociable and well-rounded dogs as well as hope dog owners improve their relationships with their puppies to give them the best possible start to their learning and development. Puppy school gives your puppy the opportunity to socialise with other dogs and people in a safe, controlled environment.
We highly recommend enrolling your puppy in puppy school to further assist with early socialisation and help to shape their behaviour well into adulthood.
Puppy Socialisation Checklist
Creating a checklist of experiences, people and surroundings your puppy should be exposed to throughout their life will allow you to make sure your puppy feels comfortable in normal day-to-day scenarios. Below is a list of prime opportunities to expose your puppy to throughout their life:
People & Animals
Adults: both females and males to make sure your puppy takes a liking to both
Other people’s homes
Other animals/household pets
Ponds and river banks
Different surfaces (grass, stairs, mud, sand, carpet etc…)
Can I Take My Puppy Outside Before They’re Fully Vaccinated?
A common misconception is that puppies should be kept inside until they’ve had their 12-week booster shot - this isn’t true. Puppies are now in fact encouraged to venture outside to further expose themselves to new surroundings, sights, smells, noises and more.
Though it’s important to note that puppies are more susceptible to diseases during this time so it’s important to be safe and sensible about where you’re taking them. As a general rule, we recommend staying away from dog parks until they’re fully vaccinated.
How To Socialise a Puppy At Home
If you’re unable to socialise your puppy outside of your home or are still feeling a little cautious, then you’ll be pleased to know that there’s still plenty that can be done, even without leaving the yard.
The idea is to focus on the tasks that you can do from home to help build your puppy’s confidence, for example introducing them to common household items like cardboard, carpets, rugs, plastic, grass etc. as well as noises, surroundings, textures and anything else that you can think of that would help to stimulate and create unique experiences for your puppy to learn from.
Remember, it’s important to remain calm during every stage of your puppy’s training - especially when it comes to socialisation. Whether you’re rewarding your puppy for taught behaviour, or simply encouraging positive interaction, verbal praise (accompanied by a few of their favourite treats) will help to reinforce this behaviour and create a more enjoyable experience for your puppy which will ultimately shape a more confident, brave, inquisitive dog later on.