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The Key to Puppy Socialisation

Updated: Sep 1

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Puppy socialisation can go along way to preventing anxiety developing. Introducing your puppy to new experiences, people, animals and places can help to avoid an anxious response in the future. So what is puppy socialisation and why is important for a healthy dog?

brown puppy sitting up

Puppies grow up so quickly that it’s essential to socialise them when they’re at their most inquisitive and responsive of their surroundings – usually between 4 and 12 weeks old.

Typically, puppies leave their mother at 8 weeks old, so the first 3 weeks after collecting your little fur ball are a crucial period when you can get them familiar with new faces, new situations, and new environments. Ultimately, a dog that has experienced a varied, rich and positive puppyhood is more likely to grow into a well-adjusted, friendly dog. 

Some young puppies who are isolated during early developmental periods may develop a fear of unfamiliar people, environments or other dogs. This can lead to anxiety or aggression but not necessarily. It’s almost impossible to predict exactly how each puppy will respond to having social contact restricted.

Puppy socialisation classes are a great idea as they provide lots of good advice that will help you raise your puppy. They should be fun for both you and your puppy and it is a good idea to visit one without your puppy to see if you like the tutor's methods. Only attend if they use kind, positive methods for teaching both puppies and people. Simply search for 'puppy socialisation classes near me'.

We’ve put together a whole range of ideas to help you raise a healthy well socialised puppy.

1. Household Sounds

Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t begin the socialising process with household sounds. The washing machine, vacuum cleaner and especially the doorbell – can shock your puppy.

dog being socialised with front door bell

However, exposing them to these sounds from a young age, means that they’re unlikely to react in a skittish way as an adult. Allow your puppy to experience every weird and wonderful household sound. Remember you can even practise by ringing the doorbell yourself!

2. Travelling

Travelling is an integral aspect of your pup’s socialisation because they will need to take excursions throughout their life. You should aim to expose puppy to traffic noise and the sense of motion of the car by safely acclimatising your puppy to the car itself.

socialisation of dog in a car

By placing your puppy in the car, you are familiarising them with the smell and feel of the car. Add in some treats to make it a truly positive experience. You could also begin preparing your puppy for their harness or crate ready for venturing out into new environments.

If you are concerned that your puppy may suffer from travel sickness, checkout our informative article in our Dog Health Section - How to Cure Travel Sickness covering signs of dog car sickness and step-by-step guide to desensitisation and counter-conditioning

3. New Faces

When your four-legged friend is young, it’s the perfect time to introduce them to a range of new people. This will instil confidence and friendlessness in adulthood.

After puppy vaccinations this becomes fairly straight forward with trips to the supermarket, shops, parks and local high streets. Before vaccinations there is still a lot you can achieve to prepare your puppy.

You can play dress up at home and use your imagination here to create a whole collection of new characters. Aim to include as many accessories with your different characters as possible, for example - hats, umbrellas, welly boots, large coats, beards, glasses, scarves and hoods. Use cameras and bags both in your hands and hung around your neck. Consider altering how you move, maybe ride a bike or scooter, or even use a walking stick.

Little girl painting her daddy's face with faceprint

It’s all about creating different looks, outlines and smells for your pup to experience. Remember, puppies tire quickly, so happily you won’t need to wear your new outfit for long.

4. Dog Walks

If you are able to walk your dog once a day, plan your walk carefully to ensure the best possible experience for your puppy. Take your time to allow them to observe delivery people, joggers, walkers, cyclists and any traffic from a distance.

By exposing puppies to a selection of different surfaces when they are young we can greatly decrease the likelihood they will be afraid of walking on a variety of surfaces later in life. This exposure to different surfaces is something that can be started young since the sense of touch is well developed, even at birth.

puppy experiencing a gravel surface for the first time

During your daily walk, plan your route to incorporate as many surfaces as possible and make sure to include both man-made and natural surfaces such as soil, mud, dry grass, wet grass, tarmac, grates, concrete, puddles, pavement and sand.

6. Noises

How to expose your puppy to a wide range of noises before they're vaccinated ?

If you use a music app such as Spotify, you can access sound effect playlists to play to your puppy. Start quietly, slowly increasing the volume over the days and weeks.

Spotify Digiffects Sound Effect Library for socialising your puppy

Digiffects Sound Effect Library is an impressive resource available on Spotify.

They have a wonderful range of sound effects including dogs barking, cats meowing, airplanes, children playing and our personal favourite, a forest with birds and a creek (so relaxing we nearly fell asleep!)

You can incorporate these sound effects into your own playlists to acclimatise your puppy to a whole collection of sounds without leaving your home.

7. Separation

Dogs are very social animals – they don’t like to be alone and need plenty of human companionship. They love having all the family at home but what happens in the long term when suddenly life returns to normal and your puppy will be left alone for periods of time.

It’s important to work on separation every day to try and avoid puppy separation anxiety further down the line. You don’t need to leave the house to build these skills, just leave the room your puppy is in.

Build up their time alone gradually, starting with just 2 minutes and build up to 45 minutes. Try to practise this at least twice a day, so your puppy will be ready for some separation.

8. Dog Grooming

The most important thing to remember is that you want your puppy to enjoy the grooming process. Start very slowly and be sure to give your puppy plenty of treats during and after each task.

Lady grooming a dog with a metal brush

For more detailed information on how to groom your puppy, simply click on the link to our article :-

How to Groom your

Dog at Home

Puppy socialisation is absolutely key to avoid an anxious dog in the future. The building blocks of socialisation can be achieved with a bit of thought and a lot of patience. Thanks for dropping by and reading our article on Puppy Socialisation.

If you are concerned that your puppy is suffering with anxiety always consult your vet. Many dogs have something they’re stressed about, the key is identifying the trigger and then working at counter-conditioning or desensitising. These are the most effective methods especially if the anxiety is treated early. The goal is to reduce the reaction to a specific stimulus (such as being left alone).

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