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How to socialise my puppy

Updated: Jun 21, 2023


Puppy socialisation is often talked about but regularly misunderstood, so we’re here to answer your top questions on puppy socialising!


How to socialise my puppy

What is puppy socialisation?

Puppy socialisation is the learning and development period a puppy goes through between the ages of 3 weeks - 3 months, as they experience other dogs, animals, humans, environments, noises and activities.



Why is puppy socialisation important?

Puppy socialisation is important because the experiences you expose your puppy to during this critical period should contribute to your puppy feeling happy, confident and secure and can have a lasting impact on the adult dog they will become. When done well, puppy socialisation helps to build their confidence in exploring their new world and their trust in you that you aren’t going to put them in situations that they cannot cope with.



What age can I start to socialise my puppy?

Puppies can begin their socialisation from around the age of 3 weeks (this may vary slightly between breeds), but socialising with other vaccinated dogs is recommended only after their first injection.



Can puppies socialise after their first injection?

Puppies can start to socialise with people and dogs after they have received their first injection as research shows the risk of disease is minimal after this time, but it is still advisable to avoid jumping in stagnant waters and mixing with unvaccinated dogs until after their second injection to reduce the risk further.



Can puppies socialise after their second injection?

Puppies can socialise with people and dogs after they have received their second injection.



How to socialise puppy with other dogs

To socialise your puppy with other dogs, find one or two trusted dogs who you know are good with puppies to walk next to and meet in a neutral setting, such as the park to offer a safe way for your puppy to practice polite meet and greets and successful play.


Not all dogs will be a good match for your puppy and you want to avoid putting your puppy in a position where they are being snapped at, barked at or lunged at by another dog, so choosing the right dogs to socialise with will allow your puppy to have good experiences, which will build their confidence.


Your puppy doesn’t need to meet every dog it sees. Quality over quantity is key when it comes to socialising your puppy with other dogs because you want your puppy to have a handful of good experiences so that they can learn to play, interact and exhibit normal canine body language without being overwhelmed. To help prevent your puppy building up the expectation they will meet every dog, try the 1 in 3 rule:


Dog #1 - you let your puppy meet (preferably a known, sociable dog) Dog #2 - you let your puppy meet them briefly and then move on Dog #3 - you just let your puppy see, but not meet the other dog


And remember to consider your puppy’s perspective; just because you know a person/dog/situation/environment is “safe”, it does not mean that your puppy feels that it is safe.



Can puppies socialise with vaccinated dogs?

Puppies can socialise with other vaccinated dogs once they have received their first vaccine.



Can puppies socialise with unvaccinated dogs?

Puppies can socialise with unvaccinated dogs once they have received their second vaccine.



How to socialise puppy with people

To socialise your puppy with people, find a couple or few people and ask them to calmly sit on the floor and let your puppy choose who to approach to introduce themselves to and let them do this at their own pace.


Remember that socialising your puppy with humans does not mean pass the parcel! There is a common myth that passing your puppy around to new people, like some sort of furry pass the parcel, is going to help socialise them, but forcing your puppy to be touched and handled by lots of strangers when they don’t want to could create trauma for your puppy and actually cause a downturn in their confidence with new people. Of course, your puppy needs to meet people, but quality over quantity is key.



How to socialise my puppy with different environments

To socialise your puppy with different environments, build confidence and body awareness, start introducing new surfaces under their paws such as grass, sand, through shallow water, on things that wobble slightly, on carpet, on tiles, etc.



How to socialise my puppy with noises

To socialise your puppy with noises, allow them to hear gentle, low-level noises they will likely encounter in everyday life and at the same time offer something positive such as food or playing with their favourite toy. For example, try playing a quiet recording of traffic sounds (YouTube is a great place to find sound) during a meal time so that your puppy hears these noises before being faced with moving cars.



Where to socialise my puppy

You can begin socialising your puppy at home and can gradually add to their experiences by exploring the garden, the car, the park, the vets, etc. Picking times when these places will be quieter will help your puppy gradually get used to all the sights, sounds and smells without it becoming too overwhelming.



How do I get my puppy used to the vets?

To get your puppy used to the vets, you can start by visiting the vet regularly, walking around the car park, sitting in the waiting area and rewarding with treats whilst you do this to help your puppy realise the vets can be a calm and enjoyable place to be. In addition, using similar smells at home such as lavender and disinfectant can help desensitise them and reduce the likelihood of your puppy becoming stressed and overwhelmed when visiting the vets.



Puppy socialising near me

To find ‘puppy socialising near me’, get in touch with your local veterinary practice to see if they can recommend a local puppy socialisation course. Or, if you are looking for puppy socialising in Herefordshire, we offer a puppy socialisation course at the All Positive Dog Services Training Centre at Hope Under Dinmore.


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