Puppy socialisation checklist
January 16, 2020
Aghhh! It’s a weird dog like creature with a fluffy wool coat… I must investigate!
That’s what will happen without a good socialisation plan. You’ll be pulled through a field backwards to investigate or avoid sheep! We thought we had done well with socialising until Betty became fascinated by a lady in a wheelchair. Her reaction was embarrassing and could have been avoided if only we had exposed her to more wheelchair users when she was a puppy!
When you get your puppy at 8+ weeks you need to be starting this socialisation straight away. It is tough if you are still waiting on vaccinations, but you can get started with some of the things. If you’re holding her in your arms while socialising you’ll have to repeat those again when she is on the floor as well. They need to be free to investigate at their own pace without the security blanket of mum or dad. If your puppy hasn’t had her needles yet, then you need to use your judgement. I wouldn’t let Betty socialise with dogs I didn’t know until she was fully vaccinated. I did take her to a friend’s house to meet their vaccinated friendly dog, though. The time window for that puppy learning phase is closing fast so you have to be prepared and practical. I wouldn’t recommend introducing your puppy to muddy fields or dog parks until she is vaccinated, for example.
Anyway, here’s a list of things to get us started. Your puppy should be allowed to investigate (on several occasions) the following things…
- Wheelchairs (obviously!)
- Hair dryers
- Sweeping brushes
- Lawn mowers
- Shopping trolleys
- Washing machines
- Hose pipes
You get the idea. As well as “Things” to get used to, they also have to have good positive experiences with things they may be expected to do or encounter. This is where a bit of luck comes in. If you introduce your puppy to another dog and that dog attacks or reacts badly, well that’s probably going to put your puppy off meeting other dogs in the future. If that does happen then you have to deal with it by meeting 10 additional nice dogs. Also you have to be calm and not show you’re anxious or that will just cement your puppy’s distrust of other dogs. If mummy doesn’t like them neither do I! At this stage your puppy will be naturally inquisitive, but you can always encourage her to approach new things with treats. You should also reward her with treats when meeting these scary new things.
More experiences you need to check off.
- Riding on a bus
- Riding on a train
- Riding in the car
- Hearing live music
- Going out in the rain
- Going out in the dark
- Experiencing thunder (admittedly hard to do unless you know Zeus personally!)
A good tip is to regularly inspect your puppy’s ears, gums and paws to get her used to it to the point she isn’t phased by it. You could also add grooming into this routine. This will massively help you and your vet down the line.
And it’s not just things, oh no, it is people an animals too!
- Other dogs of all sizes
- Other people (men and women)
- Window cleaner
- Older people
This is going to sound mad, but you have to be creative with your list. Okay you have meeting men, well what about men with glasses, hats and beards. You can see why I’m not going to attempt a full list here! These are the variations I can think of…
- Men with facial hair
- People with glasses
- People in wheelchairs
- People with walking sticks
- People wearing Head scarfs
Not to mention surfaces.
- Snow / Ice
They need to be comfortable relieving themselves on multiple outdoor surfaces. You don’t want to be on a camping holiday for the first time and realising she won’t go because there’s this strange green wet thing on the floor.
oh, and places…
- Other people’s houses
- Public buildings
- Coffee shops
At least the day you decide to socialise them on pubs will be fun! Remember it’s not just a one off thing. You need to expose them to these things over and over. I’d say 2 times at a minimum but 3-5 is what you really want. On the plus side that means you can go to the pub and socialise several times - all in the name of puppy socialisation!
I can’t list everything here, though. I’ve already admitted we forgot wheelchairs, well there was another one we missed off and that was live music. We went to New Quay, Wales not knowing there was a music festival about to start. Once it started Betty was not impressed at all. After a struggle I had to carry her kicking and squirming back up to the car park.
Here are some suggestions for outings to aid the socialisation
- Stand outside supermarket doors with your puppy
- Go to the pet shop with your puppy
- Take the puppy to collect the children from school
- Local pubs
- Railway stations
- Take her on a bus ride
- Take her into the town centre
- Take her to friends houses
- Take her to visit grandparents
- Local puppy socialisation classes (This is a great one to do)
On your socialisation trips remember to take treats so people can hand feed her. As mentioned earlier, put a list like this up on the fridge or notice board and check off every time you do one socialisation task.
Oh, and remember to have fun on your days out!
Also, if you can think of any good ones I’ve missed here, please add them to the comments and I’ll add them to the post.