Vaccinations, socialisation and preparing for your first walk
As your playful young pup begins growing up, you’ll have to get down to some of the serious stuff — in between all of the belly rubs, of course!
Vaccination, socialisation and walks are three things that all owners ought to be clued up on. Let’s break them down.
Puppy vaccinations: all you need to know
Getting vaccinated is one of the most important things that you can do for your puppy. It will protect your pooch against a number of diseases including parainfluenza, canine distemper, parvovirus, leptospirosis, kennel cough and more!
They will receive their first round of vaccinations at eight to ten weeks, with the second doses given anywhere between two weeks to a month later. These vaccinations need to be kept up to date; your vet will provide a date for booster injections. Usually, the booster course will be given before your puppy reaches its first birthday.
In a previous Puppy Club blog post, we discussed how to choose a vet, as well as top tips for your first trip. These guys should be your go-to source of vaccination information.
The importance of socialisation
Before 12 weeks of age, you need your puppy to encounter and have as many positive interactions with unfamiliar people, animals and surroundings as possible — a process known as socialisation.
In a managed way, gradually expose them to other people, different animals (such as cats and horses) as well as new environments and events. Ensure each experience is a positive one, and you’ll have a puppy that’s happy, relaxed, confident and takes things in their stride. Daily walks — as we’ll touch on later — are crucial for this process.
Over time, your puppy will learn how to interact and act appropriately in the many, varied situations they encounter in their doggy world. Of course, to make the socialisation experience an enjoyable one, make sure to reward them plentifully for their incredible progress.
In order to build a positive association with the exploration experience, treats can be very helpful.
After this 12-week time period, socialisation usually becomes more difficult. At this point, puppies tend to become more formed in their behaviours and can be more cautious and hesitant when faced with unknown scenarios.
This, of course, needs to be weighed up against the fact that they may not yet be fully protected against a number of diseases. Ensure your dog doesn’t mix with dogs that aren’t vaccinated and aren’t exposed to soiled areas in parks, for example.
Lead training: equipment to get started
Walkies. Just a simple word, but one that most dogs absolutely love.
Crucial for keeping the puppy (and even the owner!) fit, healthy and active, your daily walks create great bonding time. Walks facilitate your dog’s mental development and socialisation by allowing them to experience unfamiliar surroundings and people and animals.
Of course, for this, they need to be lead trained. You just need three things: a lead, a well-fitted collar (or harness) and plenty of tasty treats.
A nicely-fitted collar will allow you to slip a couple of fingers between it and your puppy. The lead should be of a decent length, able to attach properly to the collar or harness. Treats will allow you to give your pooch plenty of reward for the fantastic progress it is bound to make!
5 top tips for a lead-trained pup
Don’t miss these five top tips for getting walkies going in style!
Get them used to wearing a collar
Where to start with lead training? The answer: the collar. To your puppy, a collar represents a completely unfamiliar object. Having it fastened round their neck, therefore, requires a bit of getting used to.
Introducing a collar to as soon as possible is a great idea. It might be helpful to start with one that’s lightweight, so they barely notice it. Make sure it’s properly fitted using the two fingers trick we mentioned earlier.
The key is to gradually increase the time your puppy is wearing the collar for. It might just be a few minutes at first, but slowly build it up until they’re absolutely at ease. If your pup is trying to wriggle out or get rid of it, quickly distract them with some treats and belly rubs!
Introduce the lead & keep it fun
Once they’re used to the sensation of wearing a collar, the lead comes next. If you’ve got a garden big enough, it’s worth doing a few trial runs to get your young pooch used to walking calmly with you.
You might feel a bit silly, but your puppy won’t. Keep the lead slack, and after a few minutes, stop for a few treats and ball games. This way, they associate the lead with fun and play time. Then, re-attach the lead and do a bit more strolling around!
Gradual socialisation as you hit the great outdoors
Once the lead has become a familiar sight, it’s time to slowly venture outside. Plan a short route where you’re ideally unlikely to encounter any other people. Take things nice and slow — there’ll be sights, sounds and smells that are completely unfamiliar!
It’s possible that your puppy could be overwhelmed, so, like with the introduction of the lead, build it up and keep the encouragement flowing freely.
Harness the power of the treat
Whether you’re rewarding them for being calm and composed when encountering other dogs, or you’re just getting your pup to associate the lead with excitement and joy, treats are a key tool in your arsenal. Use them strategically to reward the best of behaviour!
Teach your puppy to heel
Of course, this is easier said than done — but it’s a crucial final step in your puppy’s lead training.
Many young dogs can be over-excited, so pull on the lead. A puppy which needs constant restraint isn’t technically under control, so teaching them to be ‘at heel’ — walking beside you — is very useful, but often requires patience and practice.
If your puppy seems determined to pull on the lead and charge ahead, it’s worth stopping still. This teaches them that they’re not gaining anything by doing so. If they’re lagging behind, give them plenty of excited, animated encouragement.
One helpful training technique is to ‘stop, start’ with the use of treats and verbal praise for rewards. If they’re surging ahead, get them to calm down and sit down next to you, rewarding them after doing so. Once you start walking again, encourage them to slowly do so as well. Over time, associate a calm, composed walk alongside you with the phrase ‘heel’.
Lead training is a fun, challenging but rewarding journey for owner and canine. With the right encouragement and gradual training, even the most stubborn or excitable dogs can be brought to heel.