3-12 weeks old
At this stage, puppies are at the perfect age to begin socialisation. When they are this young, they are extremely open to new experiences. But they are often too young to be fully vaccinated, meaning they can’t yet participate in puppy classes or other activities with lots of dogs. The good news is there are a lot of activities that you can do to start socialising your puppy early – including inviting friends with puppies over to your house so he can get some one-on-one puppy time, taking your puppy on car rides, and exposing him to different people and sounds.
12-18 weeks oldAt this age, puppies tend to be a little more cautious with new surroundings and people. This is a critical time to start socialisation both with people and other dogs. Taking a puppy class may be the perfect way to teach your puppy some new tricks – and make new friends along the way.
18 weeks and olderIf you haven’t started some sort of socialisation with your puppy by 18 weeks, you should consider it. As your puppy gets older, it’s harder to get him comfortable with new surroundings, people and dogs. This is a perfect time to join a puppy class or playgroup.
What if my puppy is scared?
If your puppy is scared or hesitant about a new experience, be sure to introduce him gradually. It’s fine if it takes multiple tries for your puppy to be engaged in a new situation. Some puppies do better with fewer dogs, because it’s less overwhelming. Give your puppy a treat or a favourite toy as you introduce him to the scary situation. This will create positive associations. The more confident and positive you are, the more your puppy will be open to trying something new.
Socialisation is an important part of puppyhood. Puppies who are well socialised grow up less likely to engage in fearful or aggressive behaviour. And they tend to be happier and more relaxed. Socialisation is definitely a gradual process, but one that’s very much worth it for your puppy.