Socialising your puppy

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This is an image of two puppies playing

Positive socialisation practices are critical for your puppy

Dogs that are under socialised may become shy, fearful and sometimes even aggressive.  They may not develop the appropriate canine body language necessary to interact well with other dogs or know how to behave appropriately around people. 

In contrast, puppies that have been well socialised generally grow into happy, confident dogs.   

The socialisation period

Puppies go through various developmental stages on their way to adulthood.  The ‘socialisation period’ lasts from around 3 to 12 weeks of age, and during this time, puppies are more sensitive to socialisation.  The experiences your puppy encounters during this stage, negative or positive, can have a profound effect on their behaviour later in life.

While the socialisation period is a critical developmental stage for your puppy, socialisation should also continue throughout your dog's life.                                       

Positive socialisation

Socialising your puppy involves introducing them to a whole range of new experiences including meeting different types of people, dogs, other animals, places, smells and noises.  It’s important that these interactions are a positive experience for your puppy.  Introduce them to new situations gently and reward them for calm behaviour. 

Puppy School training classes are a great way to start socialising and training your puppy.  Here you can get good advice on basic training, puppies can meet a wide range of other puppies of all shapes and sizes, as well as different people. 

Tips for choosing a Puppy School class

Puppy classes should be well structured and organised and not just a free play session for puppies, as this can frighten young or less confident puppies.  Off-lead play should be carefully managed and supervised with just a few puppies off lead for short periods.  The trainer should use positive reinforcement training methods.  In addition, class sizes should be limited to no more than 10 puppies.

Veterinarians can often recommend where to find good puppy classes, and a local veterinary clinic may well run one.

                                          

Socialising with other animals       

Remember that socialisation is not simply a matter of letting your puppy play with other dogs.

It’s very important that you select the dogs that you allow your puppy to interact with and supervise play sessions making sure all dogs involved are behaving appropriately.  As your puppy’s guardian you must make sure there is no bullying occurring either by your puppy or to them.  If either situation is occurring, simply end the play session and try again another day.  

Until your puppy is fully protected by vaccination, they should only mix with dogs whose vaccinations are fully up to date and should not be taken to parks or areas where other dogs have toileted.                                                                                                           

Introduce your puppy to other animals such as cats at an early age.  To a small puppy, an adult cat may be terrifying, so supervise these meetings to make sure they are positive encounters for both your puppy and the other animal.