Puppy Training

How to socialise a puppy

How to socialise a puppy

Socialising your puppy is about making sure they are comfortable with a wide variety of people, animals, places and situations. It’s vitally important because it helps to prepare your furry friend for the future and ensure that they grow up to be a happy and well-adjusted dog.

We’ve got lots of tips to make socialising your puppy easier and a handy puppy socialisation checklist to help you along the way.

What is puppy socialisation?

Socialising a puppy is about making sure they have positive interactions with a variety of people and other animals and get to experience different environments and situations. Anything they might encounter during the course of their life, in other words, from people in uniform, to other dogs to a trip to the vet. It’s about the little things as well as the big. The feeling of an unfamiliar surface under their paws such as sand or all the noises on a busy high street.

Why is puppy socialisation important?

The experiences a dog has during the first year of their life will have a big impact on how they feel about people, dogs, other animals and a variety of situations. A puppy who doesn’t get used to all these things is likely to grow up to be a worried and anxious dog and could develop behavioural problems. That’s not to say you can’t socialise an adult dog, but acclimatising your puppy to all types of sights, sounds and smells in a positive manner will certainly pay dividends. Proper socialisation can make your puppy comfortable around children, for example, or stop them being skittish every time the washing machine hits its spin cycle.

When should you socialise your puppy

The best time to socialise a puppy is when they are between three and 12 weeks old. As responsible breeders will keep puppies with their mums and littermates until they are at least eight weeks old, this means they are likely to start socialisation. They will do this by gently exposing your puppy to different environments, people and animals. When you bring your puppy home, it’s your job to continue this important process, gradually introducing your furry friend to everything from car rides to the postman. The key thing to bear in mind is that the whole world is new and strange to your puppy and so there are near constant opportunities to get them comfortable with different things.

Tips to make puppy socialisation easier

Make it positive

When you’re introducing your puppy to new things, it’s important to keep the experience positive and fun. Try not to be nervous yourself because dogs are very good at picking up on our emotions, so if they see you being hesitant about walking through a field of sheep (or whatever) the mood can easily transmit to them.

Treats can help

One of the easiest ways to make a new experience positive for your puppy is to give them treats. PEDIGREE™ has a variety of different ones, all of which are low in fat and contain Omega 3, Vitamin E and calcium. Our Tasty Mini range are the perfect training treats and come in three great flavours: Beef & Cheese, Beef & Poultry and Chicken & Duck.

Take things slowly

It’s best to avoid doing too much too fast with your new puppy as you don’t want to overwhelm them. Obviously, just like us humans, every dog has their own unique personality, and some will be more confident about new things than others. However, as a basic principle, slow and steady wins the race. For example, you’ll want to get your puppy used to being handled by multiple people, but it’s better not to start by taking them to a huge party, instead getting them used to a few close family members, then one stranger, then two and so on.

The puppy socialisation checklist

All sorts of people

You want your puppy to be comfortable around all different types of people from someone in uniform, to a person in a wheelchair to young children.

Other dogs

It’s equally important your puppy is happy around other dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Other animals, from cats to livestock

Your puppy is bound to encounter other types of animals during the course of their lifetime, although this will obviously vary according to where you live. Try to expose them to everything from cats to horses to livestock and praise and reward them for staying calm.

Different smells, textures, sounds and sights

This one is a near-endless list really because everything is new to your puppy! The idea is to expose them to as many different smells, textures, sounds and sights as you can think of, from different textures under their paws, to the sound of the post dropping on to the mat, to the smells such as perfume or food. Once your puppy has had all their vaccinations and is allowed out, you need to get them used to the outside world too – everything from car travel to walking down a busy street.

The vets surgery

All dogs will need to visit the vet from time to time and it’s important to make this a positive experience for your puppy from the start. You can do this by being calm yourself, offering them praise and reassurance and giving your puppy treats.

Can I socialise an older dog?

If you’ve adopted an older dog, it’s likely they will already be socialised, either because this happened in their previous home or because the shelter staff worked with them. However, occasionally a dog might need a little help in this area. There is lots of practical advice in Socialisation: Taking the world one paw at a time.

Does my puppy need puppy school?

Puppy school can be helpful when it comes to socialisation and is a social experience in itself! That said, there’s no reason why you can’t socialise your puppy yourself if you follow the advice above. If you do opt for a puppy school, it’s important you find a good one so ask other dog owners and your vet for local recommendations.

Looking for more inspiration? Check these out:

How to communicate with your dog – and the mistakes to avoid

Reward-based dog training. What it is and why it works