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The best gift you can give your puppy is the set of social skills needed to become a confident, well-adjusted dog.

Socializing your puppy is about gently introducing them to new experiences, not just throwing them in at the deep end. If a puppy encounters something without stress in the first few months it is far less likely to show fear as an adult dog.
A classic example of this is fireworks. Pups born towards the beginning of the year may never hear fireworks until they are 7-8 months old and it can terrify them. I recommend watching firework videos, gradually turning the sound up each night. Your neighbours may be bemused, but you are less likely to have a sound-phobic dog.
Patience is key - allow your puppy to explore at their own pace, and when they respond with confidence, immediately offer praise. Treats are useful for encouragement, helping them understand there is nothing to fear.

STEVE LEONARD, VET

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prime time

The most significant time for socialization is from birth to 16 weeks so it is vital that your breeder has been actively working on this before you bring your puppy home. (Rescue groups may not have a dossier on a pup’s early life but they can offer great insights and guidance based on their tests and observations).

when not to pick up

When dogs are smaller, our instinct may be to scoop them up and soothe them but this will be perceived as a reward – “When I bark wildly or snap at another dog I get extra love!” Instead simply divert your pup’s attention either by blocking the problem from view or distracting them with a squeaker. When they are quiet and well-behaved, that is the time for treats and/or affection.

v-day

Many owners miss out on the vital early stages of socialization because they think their puppies can’t go out while their vaccinations are in process. You can get around this by carrying your puppy on walks and by inviting healthy, vaccinated dogs round to your house for a meet and greet.

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Encountering all types of people and clothing early on will help avoid seemingly random phobias of fluorescent jackets, beards etc.

2.

Take short trips in the car or on public transport to familiarize your pup with engine noise and vehicle motion.

3.

Ease pups into new places by visiting friends’ houses and taking a variety of routes on walks.


what did our national survey of puppy owners uncover?

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40% completely underestimated the commitment required to raise a happy, healthy dog