I probably don’t need to tell you how important socialising your puppy is, in fact it will happen whether you’re conscious of it or not! Before your puppy completes their vaccinations, it’s important to socialise safely… which is easier than you think!
Proper puppy socialisation that delivers the well rounded and confident dog you want, probably doesn’t look like what you imagine.
Don’t fret, in this blog, we’re going to uncover how to socialise your puppy before vaccinations (without falling into the common traps).
Let’s get going!
Table of Contents
Can you socialise a puppy before vaccinations?
Yes. Before your puppy has their vaccinations, there is plenty you can do to begin their socialisation. While you need to protect them from catching nasty diseases before they’re fully protected, you can carry your pup outdoors and socialise them at home too!
Yep, not all puppy socialisation happens outside of your home. There’s a lot more to proper puppy socialisation than meeting other people and dogs!
What do puppy vaccinations protect against?
Your unvaccinated puppy shouldn’t go on the ground where other dogs may have been. Even if other dogs are not present, your puppy could pick up an infectious disease from contaminated surfaces. Their immune systems are not very robust yet, so it’s important to play it safe.
Your puppy’s vaccinations need to be complete to protect them from:
- Canine distemper
- Kennel cough
What is proper puppy socialisation?
Good socialisation allows your puppy to explore and experience things at their own pace, while paying attention to how they respond and supporting them.
How you socialise your puppy will have a direct affect on their long term behaviour, so getting it right is a BIG DEAL.
But don’t panic! Contrary to what you’ve likely heard, your dog doesn’t need to meet ALL THE DOGS or ALL THE PEOPLE. And you don’t have to race through a puppy socialisation checklist at lightning speed.
Good socialisation is introducing your dog to the world and nurturing the behaviour you would like to see from them as an adult dog. Supporting them and guiding them gently as they get used to the world will pay off big time.
Safe places to take an unvaccinated puppy
There is plenty of socialisation you can do with your puppy before their vaccinations are complete. Think about the things you’d like your puppy/adult dog to do confidently in the future to guide you on creating your socialisation plan.
Are you someone who wants their dog to be able to settle quietly in a pub or cafe? Do you want your puppy to be able to visit friends and family with you? Are you likely to want to take them on public transport such as trains or buses?
These are all places you can safely visit with your puppy in your arms or in a carrier before vaccinations:
- Cafes, coffee shops and pubs
- Friends and family’s homes
- Pet shops
- Public transport
- Car journeys
- Your garden
- Local parks
- Road walks around your home
Try to visit these places at quiet times of day where there won’t be too much activity going on to start with. These gentle and calm experiences will help your puppy take new experiences in their stride.
Puppy socialisation checklist
I’m not going to provide you with a list of experiences or exercises to socialise your puppy. They’re everywhere – if that’s what you’re looking for, you can find a ton of them on Google.
I’m sharing the IMPORTANT factors to have front of mind when socialising your puppy – both before and after vaccinations.
- Experiencing new things should always be positive for your pup
- Go at your puppy’s pace
- Quality over quantity
- Sometimes not socialising is the best socialisation
- Your dog doesn’t have to speak to every person/dog they see
1. Experiencing new things should always be positive for your pup
When your puppy experiences something new you want them to walk away thinking ‘that was quite good wasn’t it?!’ This will build positive associations that you can build upon.
Negative, stressful, or over exciting experiences can lead to problem behaviours which will take a lot more effort to repair.
2. Go at your puppy’s pace
Taking things at a slow pace will help your puppy to process and get used to them. Watch your dog’s body language and respond to that, rather than a checklist of things you want to achieve in record timing!
3. Quality over quantity
Yes, there’s a theme here! Quality, positive experiences are way more important than ticking off a huge list of socialisation exercises. Your puppy needs time to process new experiences, this isn’t a race!
You may have heard you have a finite puppy socialisation window and that you need to do ALL your socialisation in that period.
In reality, your puppy will be experiencing socialisation to the world throughout their life.
Experiences will influence their behaviour and their feelings way beyond puppyhood. Stacking up positive experiences at a steady and manageable pace will have the best outcomes for your puppy.
4. Sometimes not socialising is the best socialisation
Understanding your puppy’s body language and learning to read their response to experiences will become your superpower! This super skill will help you support your puppy so they can process, recover, and cement their learning comfortably.
Here’s a quick calming tip to help your puppy calm down and chill out!
Puppies get overstimulated (and overtired) very easily.
They need plenty of rest and downtime to stop them spiralling into a hyped-up mess! Calm, quiet downtime is just as important for your puppy’s development as new experiences and training.
Chewing (and licking) is a naturally calming activity which will help your puppy to decompress and relax.
You can grab the magical calming items featured in the above video here:
5. Your dog doesn’t have to speak to every person/dog they see
Whether your puppy is nervous about meeting new people or an overexcited bundle of enthusiasm, focusing on meeting as many people and dogs as possible will result in a mess.
For the nervous puppy, pushing them into meeting people/dogs when they’re feeling nervous will likely only make them feel more anxious and worried.
For an excitable pup, they will learn fast that they can rush up to everybody and everydog they see. This isn’t only bad dog walking etiquette, it’s dangerous. Not all dogs (or all people) will welcome their enthusiasm and this could get your puppy into trouble.
Puppy Socialisation Before Vaccinations FAQS
Can I let my puppy in the garden before vaccinations?
Yes. If you want to toilet train your puppy and get them used to the outside world, this is essential! Make sure your garden is puppy proofed and safe – checking fences are secure and any plants are safe for dogs. If you have another dog, make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date to protect your puppy.
Can I carry my puppy outside before vaccinations?
Yes! Your puppy can absolutely go outside before their vaccinations are complete. They are at risk of catching infectious diseases if they go on the ground, drink from puddles or mix with other dogs who are unvaccinated.
You can carry your puppy anywhere, keeping them close, comforted and safe as they experience new things.
Can I take my unvaccinated puppy to a friend’s house?
So long as your friend doesn’t have an unvaccinated dog and hasn’t had unvaccinated dogs visiting, it’s safe to take your puppy to visit.
How long after the 2nd puppy vaccination can they go out?
Depending on what type of vaccinations your puppy has had, it’s usually 1-2 weeks after the 2nd jab that your puppy is fully protected. Your vet will be able to tell you how long to wait in accordance with the strain of vaccination your puppy has received.
Can a puppy be socialised after 12 weeks?
Yes. While there is a puppy socialisation window that is said to close at 16 weeks, your puppy’s socialisation doesn’t end there. Socialisation is for life, not just for young puppies!
You can learn more about puppy socialisation here, so you can get it right as you journey through life together.
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