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Socialising your puppy

Socialising means meeting and having pleasant encounters with others. Puppies should become accustomed to a wide range of events, environments, situations, people and animals. The "right" amount of socialising for your puppy will depend on your own situation, what is easily available and what kind of role in life your pup will have.

You should read this page in conjunction Socialising RaisingLGD puppies if you have a maremma puppy or any of the other livestock guarding breeds and are raising your pup to be a full time livestock guardian.

The more a puppy can be exposed to from a young age, without negative incidents, or with negative incidents being resolved, the more your dog will enjoy going out, and the more relaxed and social your dog will be. Puppies are in a critical period for socialising up to 16 -18 weeks of age. Your pup will probably be 8 - 10 weeks of age when you get him, so spend that first 8 weeks or so including the pup in as many social activities as you practically can.

Actually nearly anything is a socail activity for a pup, so it is not really a daunting task at all, and you don't actually want to overstimulate your pup, just expose your pup to new experiences.

Car trips

At any opportunity it can be a great idea to take your pup out in the car with you, especially for short trips. Pups who experience lots of short car trips early in life, without them being connected to overwhelming situations are far less likely to experience travel sickness. DON'T feed your pup within an hour or 2 of going out in the car, especially in the first 10 or so trips, to reduce the likelihood of travel sickness. Here are some suggestions:

  • Go visit a friend. Ask you friend if you can just drop around and say hi for 5 minutes. Put your pup in the car, drive there, hold your pup whilst you talk for 5 minutes and then back in the car and home.
  • Go to a car park. This might sound odd, but drive a short distance to a parking area, and just stop the car and sit for 5 minutes letting your pup observe things through the windows. Don't stay long so the pup becomes bored or wants to exit.
  • Take your pup to your Vet - many vets are more than happy if you just arrive with your new pup, take the pup in, say hi to the desk staff and leave again.

Meeting people

Don't forget, you don't have to go out for your pup to meet new people!

  • Tell your friends that you have a new pup and would love them to drop in and meet him. Make it clear that visits can be as short as 5 - 10 minutes, it's about new experiences.
  • If you have children encourage their friends to come and meet your pup, but be wary of them playing long, exhausting or rough games with your pup.
  • Take your pup for short walks (carry your pup at times if needed, don't exhaust a young pup)
    • sports fields where the pup can watch a lot of activity,
    • past schools when children are out playing and noisy
    • through housed and shopping areas
    • allow people to stop and say hi to your pup so the pup experiences a range of people approaching him

Meeting animals

If you have friends with well socialised animals this is a great place to start. Again don't overwhelm a young pup, keep visits short and more frequent than long and exhausting.

Find a local puppy preschool and invest in enrolling.

A few videos that demonstrate what a puppy preschool can be like to attend and be involved with. Some are more formal than others, but any good preschool will have a real preschool culture - no pressure, lots of interesting things to do if you want, and lots of other people and puppies to meet and socialise with!

The best things about a puppy preschool is:

  • the range of experiences for your puppy,
  • sessions are designed especially for young puppies ,
  • sessions are designed to be fun,
  • they are facilitated by an experienced person.

Most puppy preschools provide the opportunity to cover topics with you such as:

  • backgrounds of dog behaviour
  • toilet training
  • recognising problem behaviour
  • dealing with problem behaviour
  • basic training including lead training
  • basic diet and grooming

Ask your local Veterinarian about puppy preschools in your area.

Once your pup is around 4 months old, he should have had lots of short - medium lenght car rides, met lots of people and been to preschool. Your pup is also becoming a bit more physically robust to handle walks with you, and have confidence in noisy places with lots of people around.

You may now start increasing the socialising by taking you pup to parks or beach areas where other dogs are often playing, taking your pup in to sports grounds to watch entire games, in other words extensions of what you have already been doing.

There are not always rights or wrongs here, but you should learn to watch your pup when young for signs of overwhelming, exhaustion or fear. That's the main thing, one pup may handle a situation easily from a young age, whilst another pup needs several short exposures to feel comfortable in the same situation.

Then it depends on your lifestyle!

If you walk to a local sportsground and watch a soccer game every weekend, you may take your pup from the first week, and find he happily curls up and sleeps much of the time in your lap. As the pup gets older he sleeps less time and becomes more social whilst there. Maybe your sportsground doesn't allow dogs to enter at all...

Try to have outings with your pup where you can take plenty of time to:

  • let your pup stop and smell things
  • let your pup just watch things that catch their attention
  • let your pup meet people without a rush
  • let your pup meet and have a small play with children or animals

Puppy preschool will help you to lead traing your puppy, but when on a purely social outing for your pup, in a safe place, don't feel you have to keep your pup strictly "at heel", let your puppy have a fun time and learn. You are better to do more concentrated lead training inside your backyard on your own with your pup. By 6 months old, your pup should be well socialised and know how to walk correctly on lead, and you have a dog that is a pleasure to take out!

A great rule of thumb to apply in those early months:

IGNORE unwanted behaviour and actions and they will occur LESS OFTEN

REWARD desired and good behaviours and actions and they will occur MORE OFTEN


male maremma playing with his pups displaying the loving nature of these livestock guardian dogs

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