How does puppy socialisation work?

After feeding well, good socialisation is the single most important thing a puppy needs. “Socialisation” means introducing the dog to a range of people and scenarios, so they develop a well-rounded view of the world.

The more unique situations a puppy is exposed to when young, the better “adjusted” it will be when an adult dog. Some examples include:

  • Letting a group of primary school kids pat and play with the puppy
  • Introducing puppy to men with walking sticks and hats
  • Gradually introducing puppy to traffic – cars, buses, trucks, motorbikes, trams, trains…
  • Introducing the puppy to many other dogs, young and old, big and small
  • Introducing the puppy to sick people
  • An older lady on a mobility scooter
  • Introducing the puppy to cats, horses, pet rabbits, birds, etc.

You can think of many more similar situations – puppies should regularly experience as many as you can think of, and more variety more often is better!

At the start of each meeting, squat down to the puppy’s level and provide reassurance, slowly getting closer and more involved. Provide loud, excited, clear praise when the puppy does well (for example, lets the children pat it; licks the leg of the lady on the mobility scooter, etc) – “GOOD girl, Bess! Good GIRL!”.

Everything is new for puppies, and they grow fast. From when they are collected at 8 weeks, to six months of age is the “formative” time – things they learn in this period will stay with them for the rest of their life, and will hugely reduce behavioural issues later on.

A good idea is to take the puppy on-lead, after 12 weeks of age (some vets recommend after 16 weeks), to hang around the entrance of your local supermarket. Most people love engaging with a cute puppy, and you’ll encounter a range of people this way. Doing this once or twice a week for six weeks will hugely contribute to your puppy’s socialisation in a very positive way.