Experiences during the first year of a dog’s life can make all the difference to their future temperament and character. Taking the time to socialise your puppy can result in a friendly, well-adjusted adult dog who enjoys the company of people, can be taken anywhere and lives life to the full!
A puppy who lacks experience with the world will find many things that we take for granted scary and is very likely to grow up to be a worried dog. A frightened and anxious dog is more likely to develop behaviour problems than a dog who has had a rich, varied and positive puppyhood.
Puppy parties, often arranged by your local vet surgery, are a great start. This may include a quick health check that reinforces the idea that a visit to the vet needn’t be an unpleasant experience.
This should be done in stages – too much, too soon can cause long lasting anxiety issues. Try to expose them one stage at a time. A handy list is worth keeping to hand, so you can see what he has copedwith e.g. traffic noise etc. before moving on to something else such as a children’s playground.
The younger your puppy, the easier it will be to socialise them. This is because, as puppies get older, they become more cautious when faced with new experiences. The early weeks are particularly important because most puppies will approach anything or anybody willingly and without fear.
By the time your puppy reaches about 12 weeks of age, anything not yet encountered is likely to be approached with caution.
Therefore it is vital that, between three and 12 weeks of age, a puppy meets a wide variety of people, situations and other animals.
How much socialisation is done at this early age will often determine how confident your puppy is around people, other dogs and new environments later in life.
Puppies usually go to new homes from the age of about six to eight weeks. This is a perfect time to introduce your new puppy to the world as they will be particularly receptive to new experiences. It’s important to build on and continue this as your puppy gets older as if socialisation stops, they may become worried or fearful. Continue to make a real effort, especially in the first year and you should be rewarded with a friendly and steady dog that can be taken anywhere!