Socialising your puppy is a very important step to ensure that he becomes a happy and confident adult, able to cope with any new environment he’s in. Puppies have a lot to learn about interactions with other dogs and humans as well as different busy environments like traffic or crowds for example. So introducing them carefully to new situations and watching how they respond will help to identify areas they are struggling with (for example they might cope with new people perfectly but be nervous around other dogs, or be fine with cars but bark at cyclists). Timing is also essential – socialisation should happen in the first 16 weeks as this matches important learning and development phases in puppies. Socialisation with other dogs also needs to be in line with vaccinations, which will normally follow the timeline below:
- Most puppies will have their first vaccination between 6-8 weeks before they go to their new owners.
- Their second vaccination takes place 4 weeks later so normally this is between 10-12 weeks of age.
- A week after the second vaccination puppies can start to be socialised with other dogs and experience the world outside.
For the first occasions, try to limit the exposure to short periods of time. So 15-20 minutes in the park meeting other dogs carefully on the lead. Sitting outside a coffee shop in a busy town for 20-30 minutes to people watch or short journeys in the car, making sure he is safely held in the boot or the back. Try not to plan drives straight after meal times as some puppies will become sick from the car motion. These are all ideal ways to slowly introduce the outside world to your puppy.
Your puppy will take its lead from you, so with all of these situations, try to remain as calm as possible, reassure your puppy if he seems to need it but don’t let him hide away completely in your coat or bed. Assess when it has been long enough and plan a quiet afternoon at home afterwards so he can sleep and puzzle through everything that happened that day.