Everybody wants a well-adjusted adult dog who is easy to live with, a dog who they can take everywhere with them and is well adjusted to the world around them.
If you want that perfect dog who can sit at a cafe with you, there is rewarding work to be done, and the earlier this process is started, the easier it will be in the long run. This means socialising them with different dogs, people, sounds, smells, sights, surfaces, machinery etc.
Every dog goes through critical socialisation stages in their life.
The first 0-16 weeks is a critical time to do as much positive socialization with a puppy as you can.
During this time, everything that the puppy is exposed to leaves a lifelong, lasting imprint on the puppy.
For example, if the puppy is exposed to crying babies during this time you will likely have a puppy who isn’t affected by crying babies as an adult.
When exposing our puppies to new things we need to make sure that we take it slowly, make it positive and don’t force our puppies to do something that scares them. For example, if you feared spiders and you got locked in a room full of spiders, would that help your fear or make it worse?
If our puppy fears thunderstorms we can play a thunderstorm soundtrack on a low volume and gradually increase that volume when the puppy doesn’t react. It’s a great idea to have some socialisation sounds on during the day so your puppy gets used to all kinds of different sounds and scenarios.
So, we don’t want to force our puppies to do things that they’re not comfortable with, but we also don’t want to coddle them. If we coddle them for being scared, it sends them the message that they should be scared.
Instead, we should ignore the frightened behavior, take a few steps back until they’re no longer reacting and reward when our puppy shows calm signals. If we have a dog who fears other dogs, we will reward them every time they look at another dog and they are calm and don’t react. As tempting as it can be to have a big celebration when you finally make a breakthrough, it is important to keep your praise consistent!
The 0–16-week age is where you want to take your puppy everywhere with you that is SAFE. This means not going to grassy areas which dogs frequent (increasing the risk of parvovirus) until they are fully vaccinated.
Instead, you can take your dog to Bunnings, pet stores, puppy school, cafes, outside the supermarket near the trolley bays, outside of the school at pickup or drop off time, family and friends houses who have vaccinated, friendly dogs and many more. Wherever you can think of that you can bring your puppy, do it! Remember we want to do as many POSITIVE things with our puppies as we can, especially at this age.
Another thing to get your puppy used to during this time is handling. You’re not the only one who will be touching your puppy. Strangers will, the vet will, and the groomer will. It’s important that we get our puppy used to be handled head to toe. There’s nothing better than having a puppy who is A-OK with being brushed and not wriggling around or biting when doing their nails! Doing a “puppy massage” while feeding your puppy treats will start to teach your puppy a positive association between touch and treats.
Dogs also go through what we call “fear periods” these happen around 8-11 weeks and then again at 6-14 months. During fear periods our puppies become hypersensitive to everything around them. It’s important not to get angry at your puppy or overreact during this time. Fears at these stages of a puppy’s development can range from understandably normal, to downright random!
You should limit stressful situations during these times to prevent your puppy having a bad experience, as during this time a bad experience can stick with our puppies for life. Although this time of our puppy's life can feel daunting, especially if it is your first; it is also a time for bonding and getting to know your new family member!
Check out some useful infographics from "Lil Chin" on the slider below, you can click on the images to enlarge them.