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Socialising your puppy


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I'm posting this as part of a set of helpful 'easy reference' articles for common questions and problems. Feel free to add additional info on socialisation in this thread, but please start a new thread for specific questions relating to your dog.

The socialisation window

The period when you can socialise your puppy is very short. At around 16 weeks, his brain physiology starts to change, and experiences he has after that critical time will be treated with greater suspicion. Additionally, from around 8 to 11 weeks your puppy will also be experiencing a 'fear imprint period'. While it is important to ensure all his experiences are positive during the socialisation period, it is especially so at that time.

What socialisation is, and what it isn't

A lot of people think that socialisation involves letting their puppy play with every dog they meet, and interact with as many people as possible. This is actually quite overwhelming for a puppy and is not at all the right approach.

Instead, think quality, not quantity; and exposure, not interaction. Letting all and sundry (people and dogs) near a puppy can be frightening - the opposite of what you want. Control the socialisation by being selective, especially with other dogs and kids. Look for calm role model dogs, and adults and children who can be trusted not to get over excited.

Socialisation is not about plunging your puppy into every new experience, but rather allowing him or her to see, hear and get used to people and situations calmly and from a safe position.

Taking puppy out before his vaccinations

You can and should start your puppy's socialisation before his course of vaccinations is completed by taking him out in a carrier, tucked into your jacket, or in a sling. As long as his feet are not on the ground, he will be perfectly safe and he can start to build his experience of all of the sights and sounds of the wider world from a safe, secure place.

So what should he experience?

There is quite a good checklist here - it wouldn't be practical, or necessary to get everything on the list but it's a good guideline and illustrates that socialisation is about more than just having a run around with other dogs.

The Puppy Socialization Exposure Checklist - Whole Dog Journal

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