Socialisation should be started slowly and mindfully from an early age and continued throughout your dog’s life with an array of safe sights, sounds, friendly animals and humans, and in a variety of safe environments.
Experiences between 8 and 16 weeks shape a dog’s temperament and behaviour the most, so its important to ensure that experiences are enjoyable and educational.
During this time puppies learn about appropriate responses and to be less stressed when experiencing something or someone unfamiliar for the first time. Well-socialised animals look forward to having new experiences, while animals that aren’t socialised often fear them.
Tip: Regular leash-walks around your neighbourhood, where your dog is not pulling or frightened, are a great way of keeping your dog well-socialised throughout his or her life.
General guideline for walks
- Up until 2 or 3 months, walks around the garden are fine.
- Up until six months, depending on the breed, about 15 minutes at a time outside the garden is sufficient.
- Between 6 months & a year you can increase the time to around 30 minutes, (depends on your puppy’s breed).
- In adulthood walks can last for about an hour for active/working breeds & 20 to 30 minutes for others.
Walk on grass where possible, hot tar will burn doggy paws. It’s also more interesting to investigate and natural to toilet on.
Take into account your puppy’s age, breed requirements, state of health, level of socialisation and fitness level.
Leash training and basic commands are highly recommended for puppies and dogs.
Go for rides in the car. Don’t feed puppy for 3 hours before the trip. Put down a thick, soft blanket so she doesn’t feel the strange vibration too much, and ensure adequate ventilation. Act normally and don’t pacify puppy if they seem a little worried, rather act confidently to help your puppy accept the experience of being in the car.
Go to the park on-leash. Practice safety and keep things light, relaxed and fun. Be aware of unfriendly dogs or large dogs running up (trust your instinct but don’t cause any unnecessary distress). Pick up your puppy and walk in the opposite direction, rather than letting puppy have a bad experience with an unfriendly or over-whelming dog. Walk puppy past a school during break time. Use treats and gentle encouragement if necessary, to link positivity to the experience.
Take puppy to the vet simply to get weighed and to list her as a patient. Act relaxed so she sees you’re not stressed. A little treat at the end of a consultation is also helpful. Source a good vet through word of mouth and trust your gut.
Bathing, nail clipping, brushing. Use a facecloth to clean her face and avoid getting water in puppy’s ears and eyes. Introduce a clipper, brush, collar & leash using treats and lots of patients, initially with no intention of using the items at all but just for puppy to smell and check out. Praise, reward and repeat. Pretend to use the items by gently touching puppy with them, before moving onto actually using them the next time. Take your time and if she stresses, stop. Please take very special care with nail clippers and rather ask your vet to cut nails if you’re not sure how to. The best way to keep your dog’s nails short is by having a fun walking routine.
Expose puppy to mild adversive weather conditions. Call her outside to play a game when the wind and very light thunder is just starting up. Act normally to show your puppy that nothing is wrong. Only do a few minutes and then go inside before puppy becomes fearful, thereby leaving a good memory. If puppy is scared from the start, call them inside and try to distract there with a game to deter from the experience.
If your puppy feels more comfortable hiding, then see where she chooses as her safe spot. Make sure that this area is available to her 24/7. You can make it nice and cozy and place a bowl of water nearby to further enhance its comfort.
Don’t treat or pacify any fearful behaviour, which will just give your dog the feeling that something is wrong. Rather act normally.
If your puppy shows panic or distress during any socialisation, you’re exposing her to too much too soon.