How to socialise your puppy: 10 top tips

Dogs are pack animals and enjoy the company of other dogs, socialising is fantastic for their happiness, health and wellbeing. Just like young children, puppies need to learn how to behave around others and play nicely, and it’s up to you to show them the way.

1. Puppy training classes

The best time for a dog to learn how to behave with other dogs is while they’re still puppies. If you take the time during this formative stage in their life, it will save you a lot of time and trouble when they are older. Puppies are eager to learn and usually pick things up pretty quickly, so utilising that period of time to build long-lasting learned behaviours is key. Puppy training classes are a great way for them to socialise with other dogs, learn how to behave around them and pick up some other good tricks and traits along the way.

2. Helping your puppy make new friends

So how do you socialise a puppy? Easy, let them spend as much time around other dogs as possible during their developmental months, once they’ve had their shots and are safe to be around others. They’ll learn through play and by example, led by older, more experienced pooches who make socialising look like a walk in the park.

3. How to build your puppy’s confidence

Socialising your puppy can be a bit nerve-wracking, especially when they’re small. We suggest gently phasing them into it. Initially limit the amount of time and number of dogs to one as they get used to being around other four-legged friends, and then as your little bundle grows in confidence so does their time around other dogs.

4. Supervised play time 

Doggy play dates are a great way to start to socialise your puppy, as it’s in a controlled space with one or two dogs who you know and trust. Make sure you’re always on hand throughout any social time your puppy has, your presence will reassure them that it’s a safe environment and encourage them to get involved in playful activities with other pooches. 

As they’re still learning, sometimes they might find themselves a little out of their depth. The play might be getting a little too rough, they might start to feel tired, and they may need a break. Keep an eye out for any signs that your pup might not be enjoying playtime as much as before, and be ready to come and give them a hand if they need you. After a quick cuddle and a little bit of rest they might be ready to get back to it, so encourage them to be as involved as they like, every time they socialise it’ll get easier, they’ll grow in confidence and they’ll have more fun!  

5. What to do around big dogs

The more pooches your puppy can meet the better, but larger breeds although most likely gentle giants can be a little terrifying at first. Take things steady, as some adult dogs are not only much bigger in size, they may not be in the mood to play with a puppy who’s got bundles of energy. 

It’s also important to remember that some larger dogs may play a little rougher than what your pup is ready for, whilst most probably mean no harm, it could traumatise your little one, so be mindful when introducing them to bigger dogs. Unfortunately, some larger dogs may have an instinct or be trained to attack smaller dogs, so be careful in wide open spaces where they may be off their leads, keep your puppy close by and be ready to pick them up if a big dog approaches.

6. Keeping control

Part of socialising is giving your puppy some freedom to learn and build confidence by working things out for themselves. The tricky part can be balancing this with their training where rules and structure are crucial. It’s a formative time for your little fluff-ball, and the mixed messages of freedom and boundaries can sometimes be a bit confusing. 

To develop a well trained dog, it takes persistence, repetition and lots of patience. They’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly if you stick with it and have a good rewards system in place. Do bear in mind that they’re only puppies, who are learning and will make mistakes along the way, so be forgiving and keep going - they’ll get there eventually!

7. Letting them take the lead

Another key thing to remember is to let your puppy figure things out for themselves. Try and let them be as curious as possible, your support will give them the courage to learn more through new but possibly daunting experiences. Where appropriate, give them the freedom to explore, don’t shout or pull them away unless it’s for their own safety, they’ll grow in confidence.

8. Teaching your puppy about safety

Always be aware of your surroundings, wherever you go with your puppy, it’s important to stay extra vigilant as they learn the rules of safety whilst out and about. They won’t yet understand the potential dangers around them, such as roads, cyclists, other dogs or busy crowds - usually they’re just excited to be somewhere new, surrounded by a bouquet of new smells - so it’s up to you to keep them out of harm’s way. 

With practice, and guidance, they’ll learn how to behave and not let excitement get the better of them, so be patient and persistent. It can help to start with carrying your pup near roads to get them used to the sounds of cars and the hustle and bustle of the outside world before they head out on their first official walk. This avoids overwhelming their senses and helps them feel safe, building their confidence for when they head out to start socialising. 

9. How to socialise puppies with young children

It’s best to explain to young children what they should and shouldn’t do with the puppy before they meet, so they understand the rules and don’t cause the pup any stress. Introduce them to one another and let their friendly inquisitive natures do the rest. Kids and puppies make for great friends once they get to know each other, they’re sure to be in for years of fun together!  

Always be on hand to keep any rough and tumble in check, children can over excite puppies, who then may nip in response to being overwhelmed, so try to keep everyone calm and playing together gently. We would always recommend an adult being in the room when a dog is present with a child, as even the most docile of dogs may turn if provoked, please take the precautions to make sure everyone stays safe. 

10. Now you can talk the talk, it’s time to walk the walk

Now the adventure begins! It’s as easy as getting out there and getting involved, and the more you do it, the more your dog will enjoy meeting new dogs. They have so much love and friendship to give, not only to people but to other pooches too - having such a busy social life can be hungry work! Harringtons Puppy Complete has been carefully formulated to provide tasty, wholesome nutrition for growing pooches from three weeks onwards and contains no artificial colours or flavours, no dairy, no soya and no added wheat. With Harringtons, they’ll have full, happy tummies and plenty of energy for all their doggy adventures, making lots of new friends along the way. 

If you’re on the lookout for more tips and tricks for taking care of your puppy, why not become a member of our Pet Club? You’ll be able to earn points, get advice from our range of experts, access exclusive rewards and enjoy discounts on your favourite products!