In the first few months with your puppy, you will need to help them to learn some key life skills to help them grow in a happy, confident dog. This is called puppy socialisation.
The puppy socialisation window
Between the ages of 4-16 weeks, puppies are at their most inquisitive and receptive to new experiences. At this age you need to expose them to lots of different things that they may be scared of if they only encounter them for the first time in adult life. This includes people, sounds and objects.
One of the most common fears experienced by dogs is loud noises, such as fireworks. That’s why it’s important to get your puppy used to different sounds when they are young to help them not be scared of loud noises. For socialisation to be successful, your puppy must enjoy the experience. Take your time with the socialisation programme and use food or toys where possible.
Puppy socialisation checklist
Your dog’s breeder should have started puppy socialisation training with your puppy. Did you use the Puppy Contract when you got your puppy? If so, it should contain information about the sounds and experiences to which they have already been exposed. Now it’s over to you to continue with the puppy socialisation plan. This includes:
Spend time every day getting your puppy used to being handled, brushed, having their paws touched and teeth checked.
Introducing puppies to new people
Introduce your puppy to people of different ages, gender and ethnicity. Make sure you expose your puppy to people wearing hats, glasses and using walking sticks. These are the sorts of things your puppy might encounter and be scared of when out walking. Don’t force your puppy to interact with other people, just encourage them to approach and investigate.
Getting puppies used to household noises
Introduce your puppy to household sounds. This includes the washing machine, dishwasher, tv, doorbell and doors opening and closing.
Very loud household sounds, such as the hoover, should be introduced to your puppy gradually. Let your puppy see and sniff a hoover first and then move it around without switching it on a few times before you switch it on. Imagine how terrifying it must be as a small puppy the first time they see a hoover coming towards them!
Getting puppies used to outdoor noises and experiences
Your puppy will also need to be exposed to outside noises such as traffic, planes, cyclists, runners. This isn’t that easy as puppies must also be protected from disease until after they have had their second vaccinations. To overcome this, the Dogs Trust has produced a helpful sound therapy programme for dogs. The programme includes household sounds and outdoor noises, including fireworks, as well as the other sounds, such as a baby crying to help prepare dogs for the arrival of a new baby. You can also carry your puppy outdoors in your arms or watch the world go by from the safety of the car.
Introducing puppies to other dogs
Puppies need to learn how to behave and be confident around other dogs. Contact your vet or local trainer to find out if they are running any classes for puppies to play together. Make sure the classes are small, well managed, there is plenty of space and the environment is safe.
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