What is socialisation?

I am answering a Frequently Barked Question today.

FBQ: What does socialising a puppy mean?

This is a very good question. It is a huge topic, but here is an excellent overview on the Kennel Club site. All animals, including little bipeds, need to learn the skills that they will use to interact with others and their environment. Animals generally learn what is normal in their surroundings at a fairly young age and then become fearful of unusual objects. Animals that live with humans need to accept being handled and learn to cope with all sorts of strange things.

The Kennel Club and Dogs Trust recommend the Puppy Socialisation Plan. There is a lot of information on the website, both for breeders and new owners. I found the section on the science of brain development fascinating – it explains all the key stages in development. I think the practical, weekly plans for your puppy’s socialisation will be invaluable regardless of your level of experience – you can sign up to see these online or go to the resources section and download them to print out.

Puppies playing and learning

Puppies playing and learning

Attribution: By Eva holderegger walser (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The plan covers all the important things that a puppy should become accustomed to. I would just like to say that you and the puppy should have fun doing this. Each positive experience builds your puppy’s confidence. It also increases your puppy’s trust in you, which consolidates your positive relationship with the puppy.

When you’re out and about with your puppy a little stress, or excitement, is a good thing – it’s part of the learning process. You should keep a close eye on your puppy and be prepared to cut your outing short if you see signs of the puppy becoming too stressed, or tired – it’s better to avoid problems by nipping them in the bud and try again another day.

Every time you take out a well-behaved and relaxed adult dog you reap the benefits of the time spent socialising your puppy.

See you next Wednesday!


  1. I’m glad you mentioned young bipeds, too, because I’m afraid too many of them aren’t receiving proper socialization training, either. And that’s not good for our species or the world in general. You are a wonderful teacher, you know!

  2. Excellent post and some great tips!

  3. I’m a veterinarian and lack of socialization is a common problem in dogs. Simple things like playing with their face, feet and ears when they are 8-16 weeks of age can make treating and examining your dog so much easier. I see a lot of fear based problems due to lack of socialization. Thanks for spreading the word about this common and easily preventable problem.

    • It must be very difficult to treat dogs that cannot be handled. It only needs a little time spent every day as a puppy checking teeth, ears, paws etc. It is so stressful for animals that are afraid of being examined.

  4. Those baby cattle dogs are so CUTE! We socialize our babies pretty thoroughly. Our house always has extra peopl drifting in and out, so socialization is a big deal for our puppies.

  5. Hi Clowie !
    Interesting post … Maria has a lot to learn about our socialization ;) … I`ve teached her in this subject for 8½ years now … // Yarri ;)

  6. Hi, since you were following the Blog Migration-X3, I take the liberty to leave you this message to inform you that Migration-X3 has been deleted. From now on, the same Blog and its content have the name of D.A. Lavoie, and the address is: http://dalavoie.wordpress.com . So I ask you to take note of this and it will be a real pleasure to greet you there! Have a nice day, D.A. Lavoie.

  7. Socialisation before 16 weeks of age is so incredibly important. So much harder with cats, as it has to happen before 8 weeks of age and then, they are still with their moms (one hopes). Means that you have to trust the breeder to handle the socialisation phase.

    • Yes, it’s very important for small kittens to be handled and get used to household noises. I suppose their window for socialisation closes earlier because they’re so independent.

  8. I adopted my dog and she loves other dogs. My friend Jason (whose here on wordpress) just adopted a dog before Christmas. She can’t stand other dogs. He needs me to keep her for him in two weeks but they snarl at each other and try to fight every time they’re near one another. I wish I could fix it.

    • The situation probably can be improved, but not quickly. The usual approach is to take the dogs (with a person each) to neutral ground and keep at a distance the reactive dog is comfortable with and reward calm behaviour. Then over a number of meetings walk the friendly dog slightly closer each time – this is a delicate balance, you want to push her comfort zone slightly but not enough to provoke a reaction. If she reacts you have to go back to a greater distance the next time and take things a bit slower.
      It is generally easier to get a reactive dog to be comfortable with a dog that is known than with dogs in general. It can take a lot of time and patience, each situation is different.
      I know that American dog Blog have been working on this issue and making improvement. This post would be a good place to start reading [http://americandogblog.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/idea-for-working-on-piersons-dog-aggression/] – I’m sure she’d be happy to point you to other posts she’s written on this topic.

  9. You’ve always got all the good answers Clowie, thanks for sharing with us!

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  11. I just LOVE your posts. They’re always interesting – and there’s so much to learn! :-)

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  13. I so agree Clowie. It’s no fun being around bipeds with poorly trained pets. I do not blame the dog for one minute. Some people don’t take the job seriously or set aside adequate time to spend with their pets let alone train them. It makes me really sad. We knew someone like this in our old neighbourhood. Their dog Chase was a going concern and they couldn’t handle him at all. Sadly, they had to give him to friends on a farm.

  14. Great tips, Clowie! Mr. K has gotten better over the years as we have socialized him more. He absolutely loves going to Pet Paradise, the hotel he stays at while we are away. The people there say he has become the life of the party…or should we say pawty? That’s a far cry from when we first rescued him, believe me! Much love, The Scottie Mom.

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