To help your puppy grow up to be a manageable, relaxed adult, you need to make sure that he or she has good early social experiences. Puppies under 14 weeks cope best with novel experiences so the first few weeks are the most important to cram in as much as possible. You will find many articles written about making sure that pups meet lots of people and experience noise and and household activity but I have found that some important experiences are not often mentioned. Once our dogs grow up, we often come to realise which social experiences we ommitted. Here are a few that I have found to be handy:
- Visit the vet often, especially when your puppy is not sick or needing a shot. It really makes life easier if your pup grows up to love visits to the vet instead of needing to be dragged through the door. Befriend the vet’s receptionist and visit often to pop your pup onto the scale and give lots of treats.
- Make sure your pup can cope with the procedures that need to happen at the vet like being picked up and put onto a table, being examined all over and being held still. Practice this every day at home for the first few weeks.
- Get your pup used to the experience of bathing. Small dogs need to cope with being picked up and placed in the bath, being held still and then shampooed and rinsed off. Larger breeds are easier to wash with a hose on the lawn so they they need to be prepared for that experience by starting early even before you think they are in need of a bath.
- Show your pup how to drink out of a running tap. I run with my dogs and they need to be happy to drink out of gushing taps when we stop at petrol garages. Unless you prepare your pup for this, I have found that they are fazed when the time comes.
- Make sure your pup can cope with basic grooming procedure from day one. Brush your puppy at least once a day and examine him all over. Clean out his ears and gently open his eyes with your fingers. It makes life much easier later if you can apply ear or eye ointment without stress. Get your puppy used to having his nails clipped from the beginning too by handling his feet daily.