What is puppy socialisation exactly – and what’s the best way to do it?

We’ve all heard how important socialisation is for young puppies, but what exactly does it mean and what does it entail?  Holidays4Dogs finds out.

It is important for puppies to learn how to interact with their environment, other people, dogs and other animas in an appropriate manner and they do this through the process of socialisation.  Of course, if dogs are to live in our society, they need help from us to get used to the myriad of situations they will have to encounter during their lives and to ensure that they grow up as well balanced adult dogs.

The crucial time for socialisation is between the age of three and twelve weeks and this is the period where your puppy will need to learn positive associations about the world around him.  After 18 weeks it becomes more difficult to socialise a puppy that has previously not had much experience of new situations, events, people or other dogs.  However, it is certainly not impossible, but it may take a little more patience and persistence.

The key points to remember before you embark on socialising your puppy is not to overwhelm him and always make sure you provide lots of praise and treats with the aim of making EVERY encounter a positive one.

A basic list of situations and things you should aim for your puppy to get used to will help you with how to go about getting your dog used to new things, so Holidays4Dogs has compiled some suggestions on what puppies need to be exposed to in the early weeks.

  • Other people and other dogs.

  • Different animals (cats, small pets, livestock).  Obviously, this needs to be approached with the puppy on the lead at all times.

  • People wearing different clothing such as hats, high viz. jackets, hoods, umbrellas.

  • Busy town environments, bus stops, railway stations (especially if you plan on taking your dog with you on public transport).

  • Water – ponds, sea, rivers.

  • Vehicles – both riding in and encountering on the road; to include cars, lorries, bicycles, buses and trains.

  • Various different surfaces such as laminate / hard wood flooring, gravel, cobbles, steps and stairs.

  • Objects such as bleeping pelican crossings, road signs, dustbins, gates (especially kiss gates).

dog sitting, pet sittingAlways keep sessions short when socialising and don’t overwhelm your pup with too many situations all at once.  Begin in quieter areas and build up gradually to places where there is more going on.

For instance, retail parks are ideal places to socialise – but choose a quiet day during the week.  Spend about 10 or 15 minutes wandering around and perhaps stand outside a shop of a few minutes where you will have the opportunity for your pup to meet strange people.  Give your pup plenty of praise for being friendly and calm and have plenty of treats handy so strangers can offer one to your puppy.  Pubs or dog friendly cafes are also a good way to get your pup used to being out and about in public spaces, but again, choose a quiet pub or cafe to begin with – you can also then use this space to begin teaching your dog to ‘settle’.

Parks can be good places to socialise your puppy with both dogs and people, but be careful of rambunctious out of control dogs that might frighten the youngster.  Always aim to set situations up so your dog has a positive experience – if your Yorkshire terrier pup is jumped all over by a boisterous off-lead Labrador he may not view this as much of a positive experience!  Always try to think about the best places to go beforehand and keep experiences low key and short.

The more your dog experiences positive interactions, the easier things will get and you will soon find that you are able to take your confident pooch with you anywhere!

Please note – this article was written before COVID-19