You shouldn’t take your puppy outside the home until his vaccinations are complete, but as soon as your vet has given him the all clear this is your number one priority – socialise, socialise, socialise!
Why is socialisation so important?
Do you feel overwhelmed or insecure when you are forced outside of the comfort zone of your normal routine? Multiply that feeling many times over and you’ll begin to understand how a puppy feels when he’s first taken away from the safety of his home and mum. For the first month of his life he’s lived in a little bubble. Then suddenly, after his vaccinations, he’s introduced to a whole new world. His instinct is to be scared of strange situations.
Fear usually provokes one of two reactions: fight or flight. He can be scared and run away from something new. Or he can confront it by growling and barking to scare it away. The greater number of different scenarios that your puppy can experience in a positive light, the more likely he is to stop being scared of new situations.
How do I socialise my puppy?
It is said that a puppy should meet 20 people and 200 dogs of all ages, shape and size by the time he is 16 weeks. This is a tall ask, but really can make all the difference to how a dog reacts to new situations as he grows up. Puppy parties and classes are an excellent way to meet lots of different puppies in a safe and controlled environment. However, he should also meet bigger dogs too, so find a local dog park or arrange doggy play dates with friends. Likewise he should meet children as well as adults, people in wheelchairs or using walking sticks, men and women wearing hats or glasses, folk large and small – anything that might look unusual or different to a dog.
Socialisation also includes normalising a variety of settings such as walking on the pavement, cobbles, grass and sand, being around traffic, crossing car parks, walking down busy high streets, being around noisy playgrounds, seeing cattle, going in the water… and so the list goes on! One of the easiest ways to socialise your puppy is simply to take him wherever you go – he is always welcome into our shops, but while he is still small enough to be carried you might be able to take him into other premises for a quick visit. Taking him on errands in the car will help prevent him associating your vehicle with vet visits only, but if you have to leave him in the car, please make sure the windows are left open and DO NOT leave him in hot weather.
You should also expose your puppy to a range of noises. The washing machine, vacuum cleaner, television, hairdryer, waste disposal etc. These are all machines which can make sudden unexpected noises.
Start by letting your puppy hear new noises at a distance (e.g. in a different room) or at a low volume, then gradually move them closer or make the noise louder over a few days. Stop if they seem anxious or nervous, and start over again, further away, a day or two later. You can also buy downloads with sounds such as fireworks, emergency sirens and thunder to help your puppy acclimatise to our raucous world.
The more effort you put into socialising your puppy, the greater the chances are that she will grow into an easy-going good-natured dog.