Socialising a Litter
What is socialisation?
Socialisation happens within the first sixteen weeks and more importantly the first twelve weeks of life and everything we introduce our puppies to in a positive way which determines how well adjusted and sociable our dogs are.
Puppies need to get used to things we take for granted and they need to interact well with humans and other animals (including livestock) throughout their lives.
Here at Park View we start this at a really young age ensuring our puppies will be happy and confident in any new situations.
Socialisation can make the difference between a good pet that can be let off the lead to play and one that has to walk at unsociable hours.
Our pups go to their new homes at eight weeks of age as this is the best time for a puppy to bond with it’s new family. This means that 3-5 weeks of the critical socialisation time is spent with us. We do everything we can to equip our puppies for life in the human world.
Puppies that are raised in kennels or garages (in the case of some home breeders) are likely to be shy, concerned about leaving the security of their litter mates and will actively avoid encounters with people and other animals. Shy puppies more readily develop unsociable tendencies making them less than perfect pets. Outgoing puppies are more likely to develop a sound temperament and fit easily into new homes.
Sociable dogs are:
Unlikely to develop behavioural problems
Unlikely to be aggressive
Unlikely to bite
How do we ensure successful socialisation?
As soon as a puppy is old enough to move around it will approach anything or anybody willingly and without fear. By the age of approximately 16 weeks new things are approached with caution.
As puppies get older their brain develops and they become more and more able to take in and retain information. We start introducing new things slowly at a very young age and increase exposure as the puppy matures.
Puppies need to be continually socialised and exposed to different environments up to the age of one year if they are to stay sociable.
When you take your puppy home at eight weeks of ages he or she will be friendly and outgoing with people and other animals and readily accept any new situation.
Puppies are handled several times a day and we gently examine their ears, eyes, mouths, tail and paws. Puppies need to learn to cope with being restrained, holding when they struggle and letting them free when they relax - always in a gentle way ensuring that no discomfort is caused.
We introduce as many new things as possible aiming for at least one new experience each day. These range from introducing a collar, to a very short car ride at week five. We choose experiences that stretch them a little each day but don’t overwhelm them.
Puppies need to become familiar with a wide range of scents, sights and sounds. For example, we introduce new people, objects, household sounds as well as those we find on Spotify e.g. fireworks, babies crying.
We move the puppies at three weeks to a different room to help provide a change of scene which helps them learn to deal with different environments. Our puppy room is attached to our kitchen and puppies ‘choose’ when they venture further afield. By the age of six weeks they are all over the ground floor of the house!
From the age of four weeks our pups meet adults of all ages, shapes and sizes, children and teenagers. We ensure that these sessions are always enjoyable for the puppies. We have many short sessions rather than one long session each day. We have lots of toys and encourage puppies to play with these and discourage puppy teeth on skin.
Learning to be Alone
Puppies need to learn to be alone and we regularly separate each puppy for a few minutes from his or her siblings. We build this time up very slowly to a maximum of about 10 minutes, never allowing a puppy to become distressed. We then give the puppy ‘people time’ rather than returning straight away to his or her siblings in order to speed up the process of socialising with humans.
Puppies alway have a ‘nest’ to sleep in and access to a toilet area. This encourages their instinctive to be clean. As the puppies mature we take them outside when they wake up, after they have eaten or have been playing to encourage elimination outside. Puppies do not leave us house trained but we give then a good start for you to continue.
Vaccination -v- Socialisation
Young puppies acquire immunity from their mothers during the early weeks but these fade over time. Young animals are very susceptible to disease before their immune systems become effective.
Keeping puppies isolated until they have developed their full immunity is likely to adversely affect their character so a compromise needs to be reached. Most early socialisation is with humans rather than dogs and so a compromise is more than feasible.
When your puppy goes home you can take them on a variety of outings in a puppy sling before they can put paws on floor. Seeing, hearing and smelling things from a distance in a positive way is invaluable for your puppy. Consider old people’s homes, local high street, coffee shops, train station - anything and everything your dog will encounter as part of their life.
Keep it positive. All encounters and experiences should be enjoyable. If your puppy becomes anxious or scared it will set back his or her progress. Learning to read your puppy’s body language is important. Never overwhelm your puppy with too much at once and allow them plenty of time for sleep and rest.
Until your puppy is vaccinated he or she should:
Not be allowed to mix with dogs that have not been vaccinated.
Not taken to parks or walked in areas where other dogs have been
Be taken out and often (puppy sling) to experience new sights and sounds.
A dog’s primary sense is smell. And although most people know this it is easy to forget when our primary sense is sight. Simple tasks like wiping a piece of cloth with the smell of something new can play a big role in familiarising puppies with the outside world. We start this process by taking different cloths an rubbing them on unfamiliar dogs, children and plants. You can carry on this when you take your puppy home. Sniffing is extremely satisfying for a dog and releases dopamine. We liken it to reading the Sunday newspaper for a dog. 15 minutes of sniffing is worth 45 minutes of chasing a ball!
Socialisation is not difficult but it does require time and a steadily rising effort from the time puppies begin to move to the time they go to they new homes. Making the effort to socialise is always and without doubt worthwhile.
Here are some of the things we do:
Week 1 -3
Pick up and hold each puppy gently several times a day
Stroke and examine all over
Provide an obvious sleeping space with toilet area
Handle each puppy individually several times a day
Introduce a new object each day
Cloths with different smells
Introduce new textures
Adults and children visit
Teach puppies to play with toys
Continue handling and start to familiarise puppies with handling and gentle restraint
Provide items to chew
5 weeks Plus
Short periods of isolation
Tasting different foods
Taking out to toilet
8 weeks Plus - Over to you
Take out to meet other animals and people
Simple training using reward based methods
Begin lead training
Short car journeys