What is Socialisation?Massey + cow

Socialisation is exposing your puppy to a large variety of animals including livestock, cats, horses, people and other dogs that are a variety of ages, sizes, breeds, sexes etc.

What is Habituation?

Habituation is exposing your puppy to different environments. The car, the outside world, the pub, roads, the vets, places where there are lots of people, children’s play areas (this is especially important if you have children or plan to whilst you have a dog).
Objects can come under both of these headings! The list is ENDLESS when it comes to this!! Try to think of objects you use often, such as the hoover, the washing machine, hairdryer the list goes on.
Like human children, puppies are not born with the social skills that they require to live with a canine family or a human one. The term “socialisation” in simple terms means the learning process that a puppy must undergo in order to learn key life skills to ensure that it is happy and confident in its environment, and can communicate effectively within its social group.
If a puppy is not well socialised it will not be used to different environments or situations and potentially spend their lives being frightened when taken to unfamiliar places or situations. Being unsure in new situations will make them more likely to run away or develop ‘bad’ behaviours such as barking and appearing aggressive when they are actually scared.
The more a puppy is exposed to new stimuli the more it will learn to cope with.

Confident puppies develop into confident dogs.

Photo Courtesy of Steff Burton and Bark Ltd

Photo Courtesy of Steff Burton and Bark Ltd

How to socialise my puppy?sat down

Try to always see the world from your puppies view so get down on their level! Everything is HUGE from down there, even you! Don’t be afraid to get down with them, if you able to or sit down. This will give your pup confidence!
All encounters should be pleasant, so keep your puppy happy by giving reward, be that your praise, treat or play with their favorite toys this will help to keep each experience as positive as possible.
Observe your puppy constantly for signs of anxiety or being overwhelmed and if things get too much, remove your puppy from the situation or give your puppy more space and time to approach. Do not force their approach to new situations by dragging or pushing them before they are ready, this can make the experience frightening and have a negative impact when introducing your puppy to a similar situation later on.
Remember puppies tire easily, so keep encounters short. During all encounters, protect your puppy from bad experiences. Young puppies are inexperienced and get themselves into trouble easily. Try to engineer encounters that will be successful and rewarding – if all early life is pleasant and positive, the puppy will grow up to feel safe and confident enough to deal with whatever life may have in store.


  • 4-16 weeks is the critical window of socialisation & habituation: Don’t panic, you can’t physically fit everything in, in this time window, but try to prioritise what your puppy will experience most in life and needs to be 100% ok with! Some will have to be done with you carrying your puppy as he/she won’t have completed all of their initial vaccinations.

cat + dog

  • First fearful impact stage: 8-11 weeks of age: even very well socialised puppy will have this stage. This is the period where puppies would naturally become more inquisitive and venture out of ‘the den’. When your puppy shows fear, you need to be supportive and show by example that the object of their fear is nothing to worry about. The puppy should not be pushed into making contact with the fearful situation, but eased in so that it can see there is nothing to worry about.


  • Puberty/ juvenile period: 12 weeks – 5months: what happened in the socialisation period will have a marked effect on this period. Your dog will have a fully developed learning capacity, although attention span is still fairly short! You need to continue social and habituation training to make sure you can guide your dog to becoming a well balanced adult. Reactivity can creep in here due to lack of social training- seek help with a behaviourist if it does.


  • Flight instinct 16 weeks – 8 months: this is where your dog’s confidence is growing evenmore. It is essential you don’t give your puppy the opportunity to roam at this stage!
Labrador Gin practicing the "sit and stay". Photo courtesy of Steff Burton and Bark Ltd

Labrador Gin practicing the “sit and stay”. Photo courtesy of Steff Burton and Bark Ltd

  • Adolescence 5-14months & Second fear impact stage: This can be THE most testing time for dog owners. It is the most common age for young dogs to be rehomed! They will test boundaries at this stage, so it is crucial you are consistent with them. If they revert back to previous unwanted behaviours or seem to forgotten training they had grasped, go back to the beginning and remind them of what you expect from them!
    The second fear impact stage arises due to hormonal influences. They will have adult desires and behaviours but will lack the social skills & experience to utilise them. This is also a great time to speak to the vets and vet nurses, or behaviourist


  • Maturity/Adulthood 1-to the end!: In most breeds the female will become mature and display adult behaviours sooner than the male. Maturity may also bring on the testing of boundaries again. Speak to the vets and vet nurses, or behaviourist if you have any questions regarding the behaviours reaching maturity.


Here at Avenue Veterinary Centre we excited to help you with the start of socialising your puppy in a safe and controlled environment at our PUPPY PARTY’S these are held on a monthly basis at Avenue Veterinary Centre, Malvern.
Puppy parties are an ideal place to socialise your new best friend in a safe and controlled manner, it is also a great opportunity to ask for advice on your puppy’s health and care from one of our knowledgeable Registered Veterinary Nurses. It is a great way for your puppy to have a positive experience at the vets and meet new friends.

Steff Web

Nurse Steff with her Working Cocker Spaniel Damson

We are also pleased to be inviting Zoe Price of BARK Ltd, an experienced local dog trainer and behaviourist to help advise you on your puppy’s progress.
Please contact Avenue’s reception team or Stephanie Burton RVN (pictured above) on 01684 572420 or info@avenue.vet for more information and reserve a place.

Zoe from Bark Ltd with her Labrador Gin

Zoe from Bark Ltd with her Labrador Gin