Socialisation & Its Importance

The same way your puppy will remember positive encounters forever, he will also remember negative experiences. So try and make sure that all experiences for your new puppy are positive until around 16 weeks

What does socialisation mean?

Socialising a new puppy is the most important thing you can do to create a wonderful dog.  It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s important!

From 0 – 16 weeks, the foundation is set for the rest of your pup’s life. What they learn before 16 weeks will affect them forever. Our role is to provide our puppies with a wide range of positive experiences giving them a strong start that will build confidence in order to experience enjoyment in their social relationships and daily life as an adult.  A confident pup is in a good position to develop a good understanding of the world.

It seems to be a common misunderstanding that socialisation refers to interactions with other puppies or dogs. It doesn’t! Socialisation is about providing your dog with many pleasant experiences so they can learn and gain an understanding about the world. 

Because getting your puppy used to all sort of things in life is so important, we have provided you with a socialisation checklist plan for you and your family to help with socialising your puppy.

Why Socialisation Matters

8 – 16 Weeks

This is the critical “socialisation period” as well as a “sensitive” period where experiences both good and bad can have lasting lifelong effects. We often hear this period as incorrectly referred to as the “fear period”. While it is true that puppies start to become increasingly fearful of NOVEL things and situations from around 4 weeks of age (with a peak around 9 weeks of age) this does not mean puppies automatically become fearful. They can be fearful of new people, objects, surfaces, sights, sounds, experiences and environments.

Socialisation is providing puppies with pleasant experiences, so they have the information they need to thrive in the world. I have invested much time and effort into making sure that your puppy has the most up to date version of the information he needs for his age.  Now it’s your job to continue to build on those experiences and provide the information he needs. Your puppy can’t read a book, search google, watch the TV or have a discussion with you to learn about places, people and things he’s never seen. The only way your puppy gets this knowledge is through the information that they acquire/understand/know/learn directly through their own experience. This requires a lot from you to ensure that your pup gets a wide range of experiences as they grow.

Every puppy is different and responds to situations differently; watch your puppy’s response to situations to make sure the experiences are enjoyable, educational and appropriate for their age and personality. When socialising a puppy, the quality of the experience counts not the quantity. In fact, the quality of the experience is the entire goal of proper socialisation.

It’s important to make time in your puppy’s socialisation plan for rest and sleep. Without enough rest and sleep, puppies become irritable, anxious, overwhelmed or fearful. There is also increasing evidence that sleep is needed for the brain to effectively process and learn from experiences. Adult dogs sleep 13-14 hours a day! That’s about 5 hours more that the average human. Puppies need more than this. A good rule of thumb for a balance between socialisation and the need for sleep is that a puppy takes a nap after an outing and if he wakes up alert and his bright self you have a good balance. If he wakes up tired he is! Slow down. If your puppy needs a day or more to recover that is a sure sign that it was too much.

How to socialise your puppy

Use treats and anything that your puppy finds enjoyable: Feeding your puppy treats while he is experiencing new things will help to create a positive association.

Create space:

 Introduce your puppy to new encounters at a distance first and let your puppy show willingness to move forward to say hello to the new object/person/dog/other animal. Dragging a scared puppy to a running lawn mower and expecting treats to solve the problem will not work in the long run.

Move at your puppy’s pace

Some dogs are more confident, others are shy or timid and some are boisterous and show no fear. Take your time when socialising your puppy and don’t rush him into a new situation. It might just scare him. 

Break new encounters down

A vacuum cleaner has different elements – the object itself, plus the sound and the fact that it moves. Introduce your puppy to all three of them independently before you add them together.

Don’t overwhelm

It is important to socialise your puppy to as many things as possible at a very young age (8-16 weeks), but take care not to overwhelm your puppy by doing too much too soon.

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