Proactively socialising your puppy is very important! Puppies have what is called a 'critical socialisation period' between approximately 3 -17 weeks of age.
Your puppy’s experiences during this critical period of learning and development can influence and shape their behaviour well into adulthood. Providing plenty of opportunities for socialisation and exposure to different environments during this time can help to ensure your puppy grows into a well-adjusted adult that relates well to other dogs, other animals and people.
Ideally, you want a class with a variety of dogs of different sizes attending and plenty of time for supervised play.
The socialisation period offers a great opportunity to get your dog comfortable with new experiences. But the socialisation window of opportunity is very brief, so to ensure that you cover all the things you need to it is useful to have a plan.
Join a local puppy class
Puppy classes are a great way for puppies to meet other dogs and people in a controlled environment.
A good class will require your puppy to have at least one vaccine, and will disinfect the classroom space before puppies assemble to cut down on the risk of communicable diseases.
Puppy school is generally aimed at pups between 10-18 weeks of age. That is done on purpose to coincide puppy school with the puppy critical socialisation period whilst also ensuring that the pups are sufficiently vaccinated prior to being exposed to other puppies. Although classes are an excellent way to socialise your puppy and also great fun, you will need to do some extra homework and socialisation on your own if you are to get the best out of your puppy.
When selecting a puppy school, it is good to go along without your dog first to watch the class and how the instructors teach. This ensures that your experience at puppy school is as good as possible. Although it is important to remember to be patient with your puppy and do not expect too much too much of them. Puppies learn at a very fast rate, so it is essential that you understand the importance of teaching useful and positive lessons early on that will benefit your puppy throughout its life and help to prevent the most common behavioural problems.
Take your pup on a walk in a stroller, bag or sling.
If your pup is not fully vaccinated yet it doesn't mean you can't start the socialisation process. There are many ways to help socialise your pups with humans and everyday situations while protecting their health. A great way to do this is to take your puppy out with you for a walk or to do chores in a stroller, bag or sling. As long as the puppy does not meet other dogs face to face or touch the ground they will be safe from catching diseases. So this can be a great way to help your pet get used to traffic, your neighbourhood and other situations.
Invite friends over to your house
A good first step in socialising your puppy is to introduce them to quiet friends at your own place. If your puppy isn’t yet allowed out, bring the people in! Invite one or two neighbours over for a lunch and to meet your new puppy. Just make sure when guest meet your pup they crouch down low and allow your dog to approach them on their own time. This will give your pup a greater sense of control and avoids them getting smothered or overwhelmed.
It is also good once your pup is vaccinated to get your friends to bring their dogs over to your place. As lots of adult dogs can be territorial when other dogs come into their home. So it is good practice to get them used to other dogs visiting while they are still young.
Introduce your puppy to many types of people
Although you won’t be able to take your puppy for walks until they’ve had all their vaccinations, there are still ways you can introduce them to all types of people.
It is also important to introduce your puppy to adults of different ethnic backgrounds, ages and professions, as some dogs might develop an aversion to people who don’t look like you and thus seem unusual to them. Meeting other people is a hugely important item on your socialisation programme, as it’s is vital that pet dogs enjoy the company of people. So the more people your puppy meets and plays with, the more friendly and sociable your puppy will become. Once your puppy has grown a little in confidence, try to take them everywhere with you if possible.
Get them used to all kinds of noises
Your new puppy needs to get accustomed to all the noises of day to day life in a home. Inside the house it is important to get the puppy used to loud noises like the washing machine, dishwasher and the vacuum cleaner.
An easy way to do this is to have them with you when you are doing your chores and slowly introduce them to appliances and objects around your home. For example, start by introducing them to a vacuum cleaner while it is turned off.
Once the puppy is comfortable with this, you can start to move the vacuum about and pretend to use it (while still switched off). Once they are used to this you can turn on the vacuum and let them investigate it. Remember to take it slow and always check for signs of anxiety and fear.
If you think your puppy is nervous or fearful, the appliance should be turned off and then start the process again another day. This is vital if you want your puppy to be well adjusted and comfortable living in your home.
Introduce them to children
Even if you don't have kids of your own, it is super important to make sure your puppy gets to meet a variety of children of different ages. As young children behave a lot differently to adults. So if your puppy doesn’t meet them whilst young, they are likely to be worried and scared when they meet children later in life. But be sure to give the children firm guidelines on how to act around the puppy to ensure the safety of both the puppy and the kids.
It is best by starting by introducing an older child and ask them to approach quietly and not make any sudden movements. Let the child give the puppy a treat and pat them. They’ll soon learn to love children, but an adult should always supervise them while they are spending time together.
Meeting other dogs
Once your puppy has received all of their vaccinations, it is time to take them for a walk to meet other dogs. It is vital that your puppy is carefully introduced to a variety of adult dogs as well as other puppies. It is always good to check that these dogs are safe around puppies before you let them meet. During this critical socialisation period, a bad experience is often worse than none at all.
It is also good to keep in mind that dogs come in all shapes and sizes due to the wide range of breeds. So you need to make sure they meet a range of dog breeds not only others like their own so they are comfortable around all sorts of dogs.
Visit your vet
A great way to socialise your dog is to take visits to your vets office. It is important that you don't only go to the vets when your puppy needs his shots or is sick, as this is how pets develop anxiety and fear of the vets. So with a new puppy it is good practice to visit the vets and make it a positive experience for them. Whether this would be going in and getting the vet and receptionist to give the puppy a treat and then go on your way.
You can also learn more by checking out this full checklist of socialisation considerations for your puppy.