IMPORTANCE OF EARLY SOCIALISING

Week 8 – this is the week that most puppies will go to their new homes but sadly, this is also the time in their lives that most puppies begin to show their fear response to things they have not come across until this point in time. This is why the breeder has such an enormous responsibility to do as much positive socialising with these pups as possible up to this stage of their lives. Make sure this is one of the many, many questions which you ask the breeder before you even go to see any puppies - “ what sort of socialising have you done with the puppies?”. Puppys can and do learn from 3 weeks of age. So imagine all the things which your new puppy could be learning in those 5 week before you bring him home??!!

 

Suggested activities -

  • In the last few days prior to re homing, the breeder should go over as many of the experiences as possible that the pups have happily gone through – this is not the time to introduce new things.

 

Week 8 in new home – for the rest of this 8th week the puppy should be introduced to all of his new 'family' and start learning to trust them and wanting to be with you. He needs these few days to settle in. Use these few days to encourage the puppy with rewards of affection and treats to follow you and enjoy being with you – begin to create your bond with your new charge. Hopefully the breeder will, as part of their puppy socialisation, have taken the puppy to the vets and either the vet or the nurse will have handled and played with the puppy and he will have enjoyed the positive experience. This would be important, as you will want to take your new puppy to the vet as soon as possible after he is 8 weeks old to have his first vaccination and it will help the puppy to accept this veterinary visit if he associates it with the positive, previous experience.

 

As the puppy's new owner, you should already have thought ahead to all the likely experiences that your puppy will have in his life and have an appropriate plan of socialising and training drawn up. For example if you know that you will want to take the puppy, as an adult dog, camping – introducing him to tents and people crawling on the ground would be on your agenda for him just now. Or if you plan to travel with him on a train for example, then introducing him gradually to the sights, sounds and smells of the station would be high on your list of socialising.

 

Suggested activities -

  1. take the puppy for his 1st vaccination, making sure that the puppy is distracted by e.g. food when the injection is given.

  2. carry the puppy everywhere with you, letting him drink in all the wonderful new sights and smells and sounds.

  3. encourage the puppy with rewards when he reacts in a happy manner when meeting new people .

  4. try to identify anything that appears to cause your puppy to be anxious/fearful and start to expose him to these things at a safe distance so that he is aware of them but not reacting fearfully.

  5. Continue where the breeder left off with getting the puppy used to wearing a collar.

  6. Begin the process, from the very day you bring puppy home, of getting him used to being left alone for short periods of time or at least not having access to you. This can be done in a positive manner by choosing to shut him behind a baby gate for example when he is eating – he can see you but cannot gain access to you and he is distracted by this nice thing called food. Build up, slowly, the length of time that you have him on the other side of the gate.

 

Over the next 8 weeks you will be responsible for teaching and encouraging your puppy to learn who is part of his social group and for shaping his personality to what, really, it will ultimately be as an adult. By the time your puppy is 16 weeks of age, anything that he is showing fearful signs towards, he will always have an accent of fear towards. This includes animate and inanimate things. Puppies which have encountered numerous slightly scary situations and have habituated to them i.e. bounced back and been fine with them – will develop a greater trait of stability. A puppy will grow up having a far more resilient character if it has lots of different, positive experiences as a puppy. It will, as an adult, be able to cope with novel stimuli and stress.

 

Weeks 9 – 14 – The critical period for sensitivity is from 9 – 12 weeks of age +/- 1 week. This is significant because it is during this stage in a puppy's development that fearful experiences can become firmly imprinted for life. So it makes good sense to ensure as far as possible, once again, that your puppies experiences are good, happy and positive ones.

 

Suggested activities - ( until 1 week after the puppy's 2nd vaccination at 10 weeks of age, the puppy still requires to be carried out with the house and garden and any other dogs he is introduced to must be healthy and fully vaccinated)

  • continue with introducing the puppy to as many new people as possible, albeit slowly and preferably one at a time – remember not to crowd the puppy. Have the people interact with the puppy gently and calmly. Do not encourage people to give your puppy edible treats. We want all treats to come from you! This achieves a couple of things (a) discourages puppy from mugging people for food and (b) encourages puppy to look to you, his owner for the good things! Build the association of people = nice things! Remember exposure to uniformed people and people wearing hi-viz jackets and clothing.

  • introduce the puppy to as many different breeds of dogs as possible, including long and short coated dogs, brachycephalic breeds like boxers and pugs, tall dogs, short dogs, dogs with erect ears like German Shepherds. It's important for him to experience the different looking dogs so that he learns to read the body language.

  • introduce the puppy to any other type of animal that you feel he may come across in his life – hens goats, horses, sheep, cattle, rabbits guinea pigs, etc. Encourage and reward calm behaviour and especially if/when he ignores them.

  • continue taking the puppy as many new places as possible – make sure that he has happy experiences in these new places and that way he will accept them as part of his life and nothing to be afraid of. It will enable the puppy, in adulthood, to take new places in his stride.

  • expose the puppy to basically anything that you feel he may come across, that could be viewed as a distraction and reward him for not reacting to it. This could include, joggers, folk on bikes, kids running past, the cat across the road, people playing football, even the squirrels and birds in the garden.

  • continue building up the time the puppy wears his collar but still do not leave him with it on unsupervised unless he has accepted it completely 100%. A good time to have him wear it is when he is eating and when you are playing with him as he will be too distracted to notice it's on him.

  • Do not leave your puppy's collar on during the night. As you will have to put the collar on puppy each morning, it will encourage you to check to see that the collar is not becoming too tight round his neck. Your puppy will literally grow over night!

  • continue with the introduction of interactive toys like tunnels and treat balls.

  • continue with having him walk on different surfaces.

  • continue the use of a sounds cd and gradually build up the volume level. Play it at intervals, especially when the puppy is eating and/or playing with someone so that he is aware of the noise but is distracted and does not bother about it.

  • A week after your puppy is fully vaccinated he is good to go – he can be down on the ground in public places and meet and greet other dogs.

 

Socialising and training your puppy does not end at 14 or indeed 16 weeks of age. As the puppy's owner, it is your responsibility for your puppy's welfare, to continue socialising and teaching him good, calm behaviours throughout his entire life, otherwise he will regress and could begin to display antisocial behaviours and exhibit fear and anxiety.

If you would like further help or advice with your puppy or adult dogs socialising, training and behaviour - please do not hesitate to contact me.

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