As a puppy grows up, they go through a time period where their experiences impact how they view the world around them. During this phase, they are learning what is safe and what they should avoid. This phase is often known as “socialisation.”
If you have recently become a happy new owner of your furry bundle of joy, then you may have already noticed how lockdown has affected them. Generally in puppies their socialisation period starts from the moment they are born, until about 16 weeks of age, however the majority of puppies experience this between three to twelve weeks.
Bringing my puppy home
By the time you are ready to bring your puppy home, they should have begun socialising already from their litter. If you purchased from a reputable breeder, they hopefully would have seen and been handled by many people, introduced to children and other animals, been in the garden in different weathers, and they may have even been on short car journeys. They would also start to hear everyday noises such as the kettle, TV and vacuum cleaners.
However, during lockdown a lot of these factors were missed. People weren’t able to come round to visit, possibly meaning just the one person handled them the entire time. Without people coming around, other family and friends and their pets would not have been introduced, and car journeys would have been limited. You may have not had access to a garden and so outside trips were eliminated. Therefore, your puppy may have spent the first few months of their life only knowing the sounds of the washing machine and the TV, meaning that when they do eventually experience other things they are very fearful.
How can I help my puppy with socialisation?
There is a high chance that you will need to work a little bit harder to improve your puppy’s socialisation to help them keep up with the increasingly busier world around them. Imagine only ever experiencing the quiet life of lockdown to suddenly the world as it returns to normal! It would, and is, a shock for many of us!
At first you may find your puppy is very worried and so barks at other dogs, people including children, moving vehicles, or the neighbours cat. With patience and understanding, you can help your puppy catch up and grow into a happy, confident dog.
- Take time with them and stay calm
- Introduce new things slowly and gradually
- Offer rewards and new interesting ways to keep them motivated
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
I have been socialising my puppy for a few months, how do I know if they’re anxious about anything?
- Body posture is stiff, tail may not wag
- Eyes seem wider and more alert
- Ears directed forward
- They bark or growl a lot more
Be imaginative with their new experiences. Take them for walks around the shops, allow them to people watch and interact with other dogs of puppies walking past, take them within distance of busier roads or even schools so they can experience children. You should soon find that your puppy becomes used to all these common sounds and sights, and eventually they won’t even remember what it was like before they became adjusted to all the sounds.
Stay patient and persistent until at least their first birthday, and they should be good for their full lifetime!