Socialisation is when a puppy is learning to interact normally with adults, children, other dogs and pets.
The socialisation period begins when a puppy first startles upon hearing a sound. It usually starts around 3 weeks of age and lasts until the puppies are around 12 weeks.
Anything a puppy experiences during this time will become part of its natural order of things. For better or worse, the effects of this crucial time are permanent so it is important to work on socialising the puppies appropriately.
If there has been no intervention, the puppies will grow to always be suspicious and/or fearful of new things or situations. This cannot only cause issues from separation anxiety to a dog who is constantly nervous/scared, it can lead to the adult dog being aggressive harming people or other dogs/animals. This is why it is very important for the breeder to accustom the puppies from an early age.
Exposing the puppies to new environments, noises, people, etc from an early age will result in the puppies being able to cope and see these experiences as non-threatening, which will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Exposing the puppies to these experiences at a later age will result in a fear response that is very hard to overcome and may hinder them for the rest of their lives.
Again, a natural response of a fearful dog, if it has no other means of escape, is aggression. This can stay with the puppy for the rest of their lives. This is exactly what you want to avoid.
Puppies who have been well socialised may not show any obvious external signs, but the underlying process is still the same.
Remember, after this age any unfamiliar objects or negative experiences can cause a fearful response (sometimes extremely fearful) and can result in aggression if there has been no previous intervention.
The following areas should be nurtured before the puppy is 12
• Emotional stability
This can be in the form of (but not limited to):
- Body handling – making sure the puppies are used to being touch all over; from their ears to the tips of their tails and holding their paws
- Basic training commands
- Different environments & travelling by car – even if it’s just driving around the block once or twice a week it will benefit them!
- Different noises daily – vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer, sudden loud bangs etc
- Different people of various age, sex, ethnicity, disability etc
- Correcting inappropriate behaviour promptly & positively
The experience of becoming accustomed to a wide range noises, lifestyle, habitats and environments is called habituation. It is important that you introduce your puppies to as many different situations as possible and as early as possible, so they are used to these things in order to avoid fearfulness for the time when they leave to their new home and for the rest of their lives. Proper habituation helps prevent similar problems as socialisation.