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How to socialise a puppy

Puppy Husky giving his paw to owner advice

Socialising a puppy will help it be safe in life

© Shutterstock

Life doesn’t get much more exciting than when you invite a happy little furball into your home. Those first few weeks and months with a new puppy are loads of fun but you can’t overlook the very important pet-parent task of puppy socialisation.

By Natasha James

Published on the 06/04/2020, 14:00

Most pups are full of confidence in those early days but without the right socialisation process, this may not last.

Fail to introduce your little pooch to new people, places and experiences in the early days and you may find that they become timid and nervous approaching new experiences as they get older. That’s why socialising your puppy is so important!

When can you socialise your puppy?

The sooner the better! Most puppies will stay with their mums until they’re around eight-weeks old but after this, providing you do it safely, you can start straight away. Puppies are receptive to new experiences from an early age but, and this is a big but, at eight weeks old, puppies will only have had one of their vaccinations (the other is usually due around 12 weeks). That’s why it’s important to keep them safe from harmful viruses and bacteria which could prove fatal with their young immune systems.

How do I socialise my eight-week-old puppy?

Take any socialisation or training process at the animal’s pace. Give your pup a week or so to settle into your home and get used to his or her new surroundings. Then consider our top ten tips for puppy socialisation:

How to socialise a puppy: 10 top tips

1. Visit the vet

Not only is this your chance to check that your pup is healthy but it also acts as a great early socialisation experience (Note: If your pup hasn’t had their vaccinations yet, it’s best to keep them in your arms and not get too close to the other animals in the surgery).

2. Take short trips by bus, train, car

 If you intend for your pooch to come along with you then get them used to travelling as soon as possible.

3. Introduce them to friends and family

Try to make sure that they get to meet people of both genders and all ages. Children behave very differently to adults so it’s ideal for your new pup to meet both!

4. Encourage gentle handling

While strokes and cuddles may seem perfectly natural to you if you’ve had dogs before, it may not be quite so easy for the puppy yet. Make sure your family and friends get the memo: handle the pup gently while they get used to you.

5. Acclimatise them to sounds

There are many household noises that we don’t think twice about but could be alarming to a dog (vacuums, washing machines, doorbells). If a puppy hears these in the early days then they’ll soon learn that they’re no cause for concern.

6. Let them meet other pets

Puppies are inquisitive and playful creatures and other animals seem to sense that they’re young and non-threatening. If you have other pets then carefully introduce them to one another as soon as you can.

7.Give consistent orders

Be sure to use consistent orders right away. Use clear words as commands and don’t chop and change what you say. You’ll be surprised how quickly your pup understands you!

8. Slow things down if necessary

Does your pup seem confused or overwhelmed? Don’t be afraid to slow things down and step back a little. Keeping your puppy reassured and letting them know that they’re safe is the best thing you can do right now.

9. Introduce them to adult dogs once vaccinations are complete

As soon as your pup has had their second set of vaccinations, get them used to meeting other dogs right away.

10. Try a puppy training class

Puppy training classes will prove invaluable to dog owners, and they’ll be lots of fun too!

Can my eight-week old puppy go outside?

Yes, you can take an eight-week-old puppy outside but keep them away from other dogs and aim to carry them in public where stray or unvaccinated dogs may have been.

Read on to find out how long your puppy should wait before two vaccinations

Can my eight-week old puppy meet other dogs?

It’s great to socialise your dog as early as possible but be sure to only introduce your pup to dogs that you know have been vaccinated. Allow them to meet a vaccinated dog in your own garden, avoid the dog park until they’ve had their second set of vaccinations.

Can I take my puppy to a friend’s house?

You can take your pup to a friend’s house but be wary of overwhelming them. Your little pooch is only just getting used to his or her new home so try to avoid shipping them around to a number of different places.

Can I carry my puppy outside before vaccinations?

In short, yes! Carrying your puppy with you is a great way to get them used to the sounds, smells and sights of their new area without risking their health before they have their vaccinations.

How far can a 12-week puppy walk?

According to the Kennel club a puppy can walk for five minutes for every month of their age (twice a day), so a 12-week or 3-month-old puppy can go for two 15-minute walks a day. It might be tempting to take your new pup on hikes with you straight away but be aware that a puppy’s growth plates don’t close until they reach puberty and some vets say that too much exercise early on could cause problems in later life.

Have you ever wondered why it is so important to walk a dog? Read on to find out

How to socialise your dog with humans

Just taking your dog out and about with you is a great way to get them used to different types of people. Invite pals over and allow puppies to get used to the humans around them on their own terms. A treat for good behaviour never goes amiss either!

How to socialise your dog with other dogs

If your dog hasn’t had their vaccinations yet then you’ll want to avoid dog parks but you can allow them to observe other dogs from a distance. Once they’ve had their vaccinations, it’s a good idea to check with the owners that their dogs are friendly and then allow your pup to approach the dog if they choose to. Resist tugging the lead or showing fear of other dogs as your pup will pick up on this.

Having a puppy is a very exciting time and if you follow the socialisation rules outlined in this article then we’re sure you’ll have a happy, sociable and playful dog for many years to come. Good luck!