Elle carrying Maze around Jollyes

For a long time now there’s been this idea that once your puppy is vaccinated you can take them out and start socialising.

When we talk about socialisation, the “critical period of socialisation is usually referred to as up to 12 weeks old. In reality socialisation can occur at any stage of life, but getting lots in nice and early when puppies are *almost* blank slates means that you can set ideas from the start, rather than trying to fix ideas that they’ve already formed.

If you wait until your puppy has had both vaccinations at 10 or 12 weeks to take them out of the house, think of all the missed opportunities for them to experience new things.

You don’t have to stick them on the ground until they’ve had their vaccinations, but you could carry them out, take them for trips in the car, sit on the bench and watch the world, have nice friends over to meet them, if you have a covered pram you could take them for walks in it so that they can see everything but not touch!

Your puppy’s breeder should have started this process long before you even get your puppy, so make sure you ask a potential breeder what socialisation they do with the puppies, if it’s not a satisfactory answer, they’re not worth buying from. Even during lockdown, Reef’s breeder ensured the litter had loads of experiences. They met horses, sheep, ducks, chickens, they felt gravel, grass, bark, concrete, rubber, they had a playground with wobbly cushions, tunnels, crinkly toys, squeaky toys. They went out in the car to buy puppy food, they met all the other appropriate dogs in the family. That’s before I even collected him at 8 weeks. How do you think he’d feel about the world compared to a puppy that didn’t see the outside of a shed until sold in a carpark at 6-8 weeks old.

Reef’s litter enjoying water play. Photo credit: Marvelmas Miniature American Shepherds

Yesterday there were gunshots going off close to my house, they were so loud. I took Reef, Flash and Maze out to the garden. Flash obviously was oblivious (though was raised as a gundog anyway) and Reef was just chilling out, chewing a horn. They were both fantastic influences on Mazikeen. She was slightly startled to begin with, but every time the shot happened initially we had a party, then when she wasn’t so surprised she just hung out with Reef who had no reaction at all. She ended up being more startled by Flash barking than the gunshots!

Maze getting more startled by Flash barking than the gunshots, Reef completely unphased

Maze is currently 9 weeks old, I have had her for 3 weeks. She has seen chickens, ducks, horses, been on loads of surfaces, met new people and nice well known dogs, we’ve had kids at the house, she’s been carried around Jollyes, sat in the Tesco carpark. She doesn’t get her second vaccination until next week but I’m not waisting any time creating her normal. What do I want normal to be? Anything unexpected. The more she sees strange new things, the more any strange new thing seems normal. I don’t want her to have a pessimistic outlook- that all new things are scary and dangerous. I want her to be optimistic and see new things and experiences as opportunities for fun and adventure.

Maze watching a horse riding lesson

This week I plan to carry her around Portrush to watch traffic from a comfortable distance, hear the beeps at the crossing, see people and dogs passing and smell all the different smells.

When you get your new puppy, think about all the safe new experiences that you can give them before you are able to take them for walks.

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