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Welcome to week one of Fenrir’s 12 Week Challenge! This is your first step in understanding your dog a little better, and it’s your first step in being able to enjoy life with them to the fullest.


This week we will be covering socialisation.


In its simplest form, socialisation is exposing your dog to new dogs, people, and situations at an early age, so they’re comfortable with a variety of scenarios.  


Ideally, you start this as soon as possible. Puppies socialise best between 3 and 14 weeks of age.  


What if you have an older dog?


Fear not! It’s never too late to start the process with your dog. The sooner the better, but not all is lost. An older dog can still be socialised. It may just take them a little longer.

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about socialisation. This guide will go over the importance and the “how to” you need to succeed.

Why is Socialisation Important?

Most of you probably already know a little bit about this, but maybe you don’t.


No one wants their dog to be afraid of new people or animals. It makes everyday life stressful. That’s where most people stop. They socialise their dog with friends and family thinking that’s all that is needed.


This simply isn’t true.


While it’s a good step, it’s only one of many.


Socialisation should get your dog familiar and comfortable around all new people and animals. A dog that is comfortable around strangers will remain calm and confident. An anxious dog is more likely to lash out or become aggressive.


To keep this from happening: socialisation is key.


It will make going out with your dog much easier. They won’t get defensive when people and their dogs walk by. You’ll be able to go for a walk without fear for them or without having to manage things they're afraid of.


This can be applied to new locations and situations as well. Imagine taking your dog to the vet and they love it. You don’t dread it and they don’t either. Imagine them not panicking while getting a nail trim or a bath. Those are all things socialisation can accomplish.


In short: socialisation is building positive or neutral associations for your dog.

How is Socialisation Accomplished?

You know why it’s so important, but how do you go about getting a well socialised dog? There’s not a one size fits all solution, but we’re here to help. We’ll look at the key concepts below.

Start Early

Be consistent and take it slow

Stay Positive!

Start Early

The earlier you can start the process the better! Remember that 3-14 week mark we mentioned earlier?


It’s called the “sensitive period.” This is the point in your dog’s life where they bond most easily and adapt to new environments and situations the best. So, it’s important to make good use of this period in puppyhood.


It’s also much easier to secure and sooth a puppy than it is an adult dog. Especially with large breeds. They can be much bigger and stronger than you once full grown.


Starting the process early makes it much easier, safer, and less stressful for everyone.

Be Consistent and Take it Slow

It’s like with anything else. Practice makes perfect.


Imagine any of your hobbies. If you only have time for them once a month, you aren’t going to see much change or improvement over time. The same can be said for socialising your dog.


A single car ride or lap around the park isn’t going to do much in the long run. You should be socialising your puppy every day. It’s a lot of commitment, but it will be well worth it in the end.


It may not seem like much, but even a car ride when you’re not feeling up to much else will help. Practise nail trimming at home. Invite over a friend. Every little thing counts! This consistency will help your puppy learn and adapt much more quickly.


Even if your dog isn’t a puppy anymore, exposing them to things regularly will help get them more used to things.


Imagine the first time you did something new, it was probably pretty scary. You felt anxious. It wasn’t so bad after that. You were just a little less anxious the next time. It improved slowly the more you did it, but took more than one exposure for you to feel comfortable.  


The same can be said for your dog. And if they’re feeling uncomfortable and anxious, it’s okay to take a step back and reevaluate. It’s even beneficial not to push them. Take a look at what you can do to make it less scary for them.


Slow and consistent is key.

Stay Positive!

It can be easy to feel discouraged when things don’t go as planned.


It’s normal to feel frustrated.


But, positivity is another main ingredient of socialisation. Your attitude and how you reinforce situations makes a huge impact on your dog. You want all situations and people your dog encounters to be positive. Depending on your dog, that positivity will look different.


Is your dog food driven? Use treats to form those positive associations. Do they have a favourite toy? Take that toy with you and give it to them for a few minutes at a time while out and about. Playing? Cuddles? Whatever your dog really loves can work.


The important part is that you build those positive relationships for your dog. If you’re excited to go somewhere or see someone, your dog is likely to pick up on that. If you leave the house nervous about trying to socialise your dog, they’ll feel that as well.


So, stay positive and don’t give up!

Where Can Socialisation Take Place?

Everywhere and anywhere really! That’s the beauty of it. You’re looking for new experiences to share with your dog, so anything is on the table. The store? A bath? The vet? A trim? Your friend’s house? All of those things count!


We’re going to go over some of the best places and ways for socialisation below. We’ve even provided you with a fun bingo card!


You can mark off all the things your dog has been exposed to. Just remember: they need to be exposed more than once! The more often the better

The Vet

Friend’s and Family’s Houses

Your Own Home

Puppy Classes

The Vet

This may seem counterintuitive. The vet is often scary and stressful, but it is an amazing place to socialise your puppy. It’s a controlled environment with new people and experiences.


It’s also a place you and your dog will be rather frequently. Especially when you’re going in for all of those puppy shots.  


It’s especially important to establish the vet as a wonderful place early on in life. Once they get older, they’ll be going in for their regular check up and shots still, plus they may develop health issues.


It’s in your and your dog’s best interest to make the vet a fun place.

Be sure to take your puppy’s favourite treats along. Have the vet and other staff hand them out. This is great during vaccines. If you can distract them with treats while they’re getting shots, they won’t mind nearly as much and it will help them to hold still as well.


You can also take along a toy.


You should see if your vet will allow you to bring your puppy in for a happy visit. There won’t be any medical stuff going on. These sorts of trips are just to get your dog used to the vet. They’ll meet the staff and get lots of treats and positive reinforcement.  


You can also talk to your vet about a socialisation regime that works for you and your puppy.

Friend’s and Family’s Homes

You need to get your dog used to new people and places. What better way to do so than with people we trust? Friends and family are a great way to introduce your dog to new people and any pets they may have.


Take them with you when you go to visit. Or set up a time with someone specifically to go and visit with your dog. Take their treats and toys along. Make it a play date.


You can also take your puppy for a walk around the neighbourhood while you’re there. You’re pretty likely to bump into someone while you’re out and about. It will also help get them used to cars.


Plus, you’ll have to get to their house somehow. You’ll either be taking a vehicle with your dog in the car or you’ll be walking with them. Those are both opportunities to build trust and positive associations as well.

Your Own Home

This is the one most people don’t consider, but your home is an amazing place to socialise your dog! They’re in a comfortable and familiar place, so now is the best time to introduce new things.


You can invite people over to meet them. Have one or two friends your dog has never seen come over. This does two things for your dog.


They’re meeting new people, but they’re also learning that new people in their space aren’t a threat. You have to remember, your home is your dog’s home and if they don’t know any better, visitors may be considered a threat.


Meeting people in the home is different from meeting them in a neutral space like the sidewalk.


At home is also the best place to work on things like nail trims and baths.


Depending on your dog, you may end up sending them to the groomer once they’re older, so getting them used to people handling them early on is very important.


Take it slow.


Touch and play with their paws. You can also do the same with their ears. It will make it so much easier to clean and handle any sort of ear infections later in life. Get them used to gentle stretching manoeuvres such as shifting back legs.


You don’t need to be rough at all. Simply touching and getting them used to it as a normal and neutral thing that happens is more than enough.


The same can be said for bathing.


Get them in the tub while it’s dry a few times before you start introducing water. Introduce it slowly. Make sure it's a comfortable temperature.


In any scenario, make sure you have rewards close at hand!  


You can also take them out for a walk around the block near home! You don’t have to go far to get the job done.

Puppy Classes

If you have the time and money to dedicate to puppy classes, they can be an excellent form of socialisation as well! Just make sure your dog is up to date on all of their shots first. Sometimes it’s a requirement and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.


These classes will go over the basics of training, but they also generally have a portion dedicated to socialising your dog. They’ll get to meet lots of new dogs and people as well.

Places Not for Socialisation

These are probably the places people immediately think of when trying to socialise their dog, but they aren’t a good idea. A lot of us immediately think of places like the dog park or big box stores.


On the outside, it’s amazing. It’s a new place. There are a bunch of new people and new dogs.


Let’s take a closer look.


It’s a new place with new smells. There’s new people and new animals. There’s so many new lights and sounds. That can be overwhelming.


The dog park especially takes that one step further. Not all owners are responsible. Their dog that is running around off the lead might not be well socialised or may just be unfriendly in general. They might not be paying attention to their dog.


Accidents can and will happen.


It only takes one bad social interaction for some dogs to become anxious and scared of certain situations and places.


So, until you and your dog are more confident and social, save those really big and busy places for later on in your journey. You’ll be ready for them before you know it.


So, now you know everything you need to know to get started on socialising your dog! It’s not nearly as daunting a task as it can seem.  


As long as you stay consistent and positive, you will succeed.


Don’t forget your bingo card! You can also send us pictures and add things that might not be on the card to share on social media with us. We can’t wait to see your success stories!

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