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  • Writer's pictureFiona Alder

Puppy Socialisation

Updated: Mar 5

Controlled exposure to new situations and experiences will help your puppy develop into a confident, resilient and well-rounded dog. A puppy needs to be exposed to lots of different sights, sounds, smells and textures and if done in a positive way, this will help your dog cope well with new situations as they get older.

Puppy Socialisation
Puppy out in a busy street

A puppy's sensitive period starts at 3 weeks and lasts until 12-14 weeks old. This is the key period for your puppy to experience the world they will live in. Lots of positive exposure to other people, animals, sounds, surfaces and environments should be the top priority for your puppy during this time.

Socialisation should never be forced on to your puppy, always give a choice while encouraging your puppy to interact, if you keep things positive and force free this will help your puppy grow in confidence. Don't wait until your pup is fully vaccinated, time is short and puppies need to be exposed to things as early as possible. Carry your puppy outside if possible to experience different sights and sounds or go in the car and park somewhere your puppy can watch everything go by (park, kids playground, supermarket etc). Use treats to make it all a nice experience for your pup.

It is common for dogs to become sensitive to sounds such as thunder, fireworks or loud traffic. You can prevent this by desensitise your young puppy to loud noises in a control and positive way.

YouTube is a really useful tool for access to lots of different sounds, just search for “puppy training sounds”. I always start with fireworks, it’s such a common fear of dogs (an estimated 45% of dogs in the UK show signs of fear around fireworks) and one that can be avoided with the right training. Always start with any noise on a very low volume and play it in the background when you are playing with your puppy. If your puppy notices the noise it’s too loud, turn down the volume and very gradually increase the sound over daily sessions for 1-2 weeks. If you do this for a few minutes every day, your puppy will start to associate the sound with something positive and this will help desensitise him to the sound. Make sure you take it at your puppy's pace and remember to reduce the volume if he focuses on the sound and not the game you are playing.

Along with sounds, your puppy needs to get used to all the different items and textures he will see in the real world. You can start at home by creating a fun obstacle course for your puppy to explore. Using things you’ll have in the home - empty cardboard box, bubble wrap, plastic carrier bags, plastic containers, step ladders, wood, paper - try to find items with different textures so your puppy can experience as many different textures under his paws as possible. Use treats to lure your puppy through all the items & hide treats to make everything more appealing to your dog. Take it at your puppy’s pace and always use encouraging words and tone of voice.

Exposure to new things can be scary for some puppies, make sure introductions to anything new is slow and always use play or treats to make it a positive experience. It’s better to give new things a positive association rather than a neutral one, that will help to set your puppy up to be a confident and resilient adult dog.

Find out more about my puppy training packages here

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