Several times recently I’ve seen others advising that people don’t socialise their puppy “too much”, an example being that a pet shop visit was too much for a 10-12 week old puppy. I even read once that puppies under 5 months shouldn’t be socialised or taken out much.
In my opinion, this is all total and utter bulls**t 😉
Puppies are born as fairly blank slates. Sure, they all have individual temperaments, but for the most part they are confident, neutral about new experiences, and want to make friends with EVERYTHING.
When we used to run puppy classes, I would tell owners that if they had a “nervous” puppy, it was a sign they would need to step up their game and really work hard to show their pup that the world and everything in it is a fun place.
Puppies are supposed to be confident.
As soon as your puppy comes home, they can begin to be socialised. Because they won’t be fully vaccinated at 8 weeks, there are two options:
1) Concentrate on socialisation in the home; invite guests over, introduce to pets, vacuums, the washing machine, garden, play noises on YouTube etc etc.
(handling and dremel socialisation, some easy ‘at home’ socialisation)
2) Take them outside but carry them everywhere until they are vaccinated. The risk of them catching anything is so, so small, and this way you can socialise them with everything!
We carry puppies about from the day after we bring them home.
At first the walks are very short. This is to not overwhelm them, so we can observe their confidence, and judge how well they can hold their tiny bladders!! (eg. Mojo at 10 weeks could easily hold his bladder for 90-120 minutes, Raiden at the same age could only manage 20 minutes!!)
There is one huge thing you always need to remember when socialising a puppy –
You must take it at their pace!!
With confident puppies, by their second week home we are carrying them everywhere.
They join us on dog walks, which exposes them to roads, people, dogs, birds, cows, sheep, and many more things.
We carry them into town and into pet-friendly shops; this is a great way for them to meet strangers whilst with us (as we know very few people in this area), and also exposes them to busy roads, busy shops, new smells, new lighting etc.
We also sit outside supermarkets with them, which is great as they get to watch people push trolleys, here the clatter, and they have exposure to dozens of people in one sitting.
These are from when Mojo was older, but at his youngest he would just sleep through all this or lie and watch! 🙂
If you have an extremely confident puppy (terrier puppies tend to fall into this bracket) you often won’t have anything holding socialisation trips back – pupper will be happy to go anywhere, see anything, and fall asleep in your arms when tired.
Mojo has had dozens and dozens of socialisation trips in the few weeks he has been with us, and until he was old enough to go down on the ground, he mainly slept on them all. I’m talking heaving traffic and air horns on the road RIGHT NEXT TO HIM, and he would sleep through it. When we went into a charity shop he would briefly pop up to see if anyone would fuss him, then it was back to sleeping!!
However, if you have a fearful puppy, you need to socialise them as much as possible BUT at *their* pace.
Read up on calming signals, stressed behaviour, and get to know your little one really well. You need to be aware of the tiniest sign of unease in your puppy. If someone wants to pet them, does your puppy want that to happen? A normal puppy will be desperately squirmy to say hi; an obviously fearful pup may turn away, lick their lips and tremble, but an uninterested puppy is often fearful too.
You can’t socialise a puppy too much, but you can rush a puppy and put it in situations it is not comfortable with.
12 week old Mojo could go literally anyway and be fine; 12 weeks old Sasha was fearful of many things and terrified of strangers, she wouldn’t have done well in a lot of situations!
You NEED to get puppies out into the world and expose them to as much as possible, at the speed that is right for them. The socialisation window for a puppy closes at 14-16 weeks old, and before that happens they need to have been taught that everything they have seen is positive.
After 16 weeks, they start to greet new things with caution, so before they reach that age they need to have enjoyed many, many things.If you teach a young puppy that experiencing new things is exciting and positive, this confidence carries across to experiencing new things as adults.
Raiden was a perfect example of this; he was well socialised and a confident little pup, and as an adult anything he stumbled across he wanted to explore and befriend!
If you wait until after 5 months to socialise your puppy, you will most likely end up with a very fearful pup. Or it could swing the other way, and you could have a puppy that becomes madly excited about everything because it’s their first time experiencing it!
Imagine locking a child inside a house until they were about 8-10 years old, and not exposing them to anything…
Socialisation isn’t just rushing out and thrusting your puppy into every situation (and I’ve seen that, where well-intentioned owners pass their trembling puppy into strangers’ arms for ‘socialisation’, or drag them on lead to an unknown dog to ‘play’), it’s about exposing your dog to the world and making sure they’re happy with it 🙂
Also, another hard concept for a lot of people to understand, puppies can be trained immediately upon coming home, and most of them REALLY ENJOY IT!! 😉
Training is a great way to bond with a puppy, it teaches them how to learn and use their brain, and there’s no better way to set your pup up for success than to practice training when they’re young and want to work for you!