Before your puppy has completed its vaccinations it is not fully protected against canine diseases. Your puppy should only meet dogs that you know are healthy and fully vaccinated every year. Never put an unvaccinated puppy down on the floor in a public place where other dogs are likely to frequent, including inside and outside your veterinary practice, as this puts your puppy at risk.
It was discovered in the 1960’s that the socialisation period for the domestic dog is 3 to 12 weeks of age, and that you should continue making it a top priority until the pup is 16 weeks old. Between 12 and 16 weeks the pups fear instincts start to kick in as a natural means of survival pasted on from their wild ancestors. So we have a very short time in which to ensure that our puppy is developing normal, well-balanced, behaviour.
Puppies that have had lots and lots of pleasant and varied experiences before they where 16 weeks old will cope with life and new situations very well. Puppies that have had limited exposure to the world will react in a surprised and fearful manner to new sights, sounds and smells. This can lead to all sorts of anxious and aggressive behavioural problems in adult dogs.
You should make an extra special effort to spend as much time as possible, to socialise your puppy as much as possible, before it is 16 weeks old. Continue to socialise and expose your dog to as many different environments and experiences until it is one year old! The learning process does not stop until your dog dies. Failure to educate a dog may cost the dog its life! Prevention is much better than cure!
The blue cross produce a very helpful wipe clean wall chart to help with socialisation. The chart is a weekly tick list to help guide you through socialising your puppy but it should be remembered that it does not cover every thing your puppy needs to experience, so please be inventive and add other things to your programme
What to do before your puppy can go down in public places?
(To ensure your puppy of any age is well adjusted to cope with life properly you will need to follow the check lists below).
Inside your home
Puppies need to experience the day to day running of your household. Give your new puppy a day or two to settle in quietly then start your socialisation program. Take a look at the list below and make sure your puppy experiences everything on the list several times every week;
- Vacuum cleaners (one of the most feared items in older dogs)
- Washing machine/tumble dryers
- Hair drier
- Ironing Board
- Pots and pans being rattled/dropped
- Sweeping brush, mop and bucket
- T.V., radio, play-stations
- Delivery persons, postman, milkman, paperboy, window cleaner
It is very important to socialise your puppy with humans. Lots of dogs grow up and become afraid of children and men. Not all men women and children look, sound or even smell the same. Your puppy needs to meet adults of all ages, sizes, race and appearances. Children of varying age groups (preferable well behaved ones), under 5s, 5 to 10years and 10 to 15 years. It is recommended that your puppy meet 100 different people before it is 12 weeks old. So organise a few well-controlled parties for the kids and the mums and dads.
The outside world
Puppies need to be frequently and consistently exposed to the sights, sounds and smells of the outside world, your puppy can be carried out in your arms quite safely (do this after first vaccination, but remember not to put puppy on the floor!) to experience the world at large.
Try to ensure that your puppy experiences the following list several times per week;
- Traffic – start with quiet roads and build up to noisy places as your puppy’s confidence grows. Traffic should include cars, vans, motorbikes, HGV’s, buses, caravans, tractors, trailers and trains.
- Pushchairs, prams, wheelchairs, shopping trolleys.
- Busy shops and bus stations
- Schools as the children arrive and leave. It might be an idea to let the head of school know what you are doing or you may get a visit from the police for loitering with a puppy near schools or go with a fiend when they take their children to school.
- Unfamiliar houses and gardens that are secure and you are quite sure that stray dogs cannot enter.
Some veterinary practices hold puppy parties; they are great fun and very informative, so ring round and see if you can take your puppy along.
All this will contribute to your puppy meeting 100 people. If your puppy is one of the large breeds try using an old pram to take it out in.
Your puppy can have fully vaccinated dogs and puppies visit your house and you can visit theirs provided strays cannot enter the garden. Try to vary the age sex and breed of your puppy’s playmates as much as possible.
Take your puppy to see cows, horses, sheep chickens, ducks and anything else you can find easy access to.
Cats. Be careful with cats. Do not allow your puppy to chase or terrorise cats or kittens. 1, the neighbour’s will not like your full-grown dog chasing their cat. 2, you will not want your dog to loose its eye in a fight with a cat.
There are large numbers of dog unable to cope with unusual or loud noise. The blue cross produce a very useful audiotape called ‘Sounds Familiar’ designed to desensitise puppies to fireworks, gunshot, traffic, thunderstorms and many other sounds. This can be played to puppies from 3 weeks old. I recommend that everyone plays it to their puppies from 3 days after they bring them home. Dogdayz also produce a range of CD’S called ‘crash bang wallop’ (you want the one with 50 unique sound effects of general noises)
Make socialising your puppy fun
Above all make sure that your puppy enjoys its socialisation time, as it will give your puppy the start in life that it will need in order to cope with the stresses and strains of our modern busy world. If you have a timid puppy take things slowly progressing as the puppy gains its confidence. Care must always be taken not to cause distress to your puppy, but do not let that be a reason not to try, you may regret it, when your puppy grows up unable to cope with life he most certainly will!
Never to late
By the time I get to meet you and your puppy he may have gone through the most important stage in its life. If you where unaware of the socialisation period in your dogs life do not delay any longer. It is better to start late rather than not at all. If your puppy shows fear towards anything ether in the home or outside in public places you must not force your puppy to approach it. Loosen your lead to its full length and go up to what ever is worrying your puppy. Talk to and pat, the wheelie bin, park bench or flapping carrier bag, not the puppy. Your puppy will soon join you to investigate this strange item and gain confidence. Then reward your puppy for being brave and carry on as normal.
If your puppy is over 16 weeks you still need to follow the lists above to have a well adjusted puppy.
Training should begin the moment you arrive home with your puppy.
- Before taking your puppy inside you should take him out in the garden to empty in order to establish house training from the start. Wait outside with your puppy whilst he investigates the garden and until he as emptied then reward with a treat and take him in. To continue with house training take puppy out at regular intervals, stay out with him, as puppy finishes his toileting, reward with a treat and use a command word such as toilet, be busy, hurry up or one of your own choice. Never smack or rub puppy’s nose in excrement for having accidents you will only make matters worse.
- Teach your puppy to sit for every thing from the start. He sits for all his meals, fuss and play. Never encourage puppies to jump up, you want like it when he as grown into an adult dog.
- Handling and restraint. Gently handle every part of your dog’s body and gently restrain him everyday.
- Discourage all biting by giving puppy a toy to bite on. Never play fight with a puppy, you want like it when he as grown into an adult dog.
- Start gentle lead and collar training after 3 days.
- Do not allow your puppy to do any thing now that you do not want he to do when he as grown up!
- Join a training class especially for young puppies as soon as your puppy is fully vaccinated.
I run training classes outside and we can not allow puppies total freedom to romp around with each other, try talking to other class members to see if you can visit each others houses to let your puppies play off lead together in secure gardens. Never leave puppies playing unattended.
I also run an indoor training class for young puppies.
Please see my Class Locations and Timetables page for details.