Puppies are not born with the social skills that they require to live with their family, be that a canine family or a human one. The term "socialisation" in simple terms means the learning process that a puppy must undergo in order to learn key life skills to ensure that it is happy and confident in its environment, and can communicate effectively within its social group.

We ask a huge amount from our dogs in their role as a companion animal, as not only do they need to understand humans and the human world, they also need to become fluent in the language of dog.

 This involves having pleasant social interactions with adults, children, vets, adult dogs and other animals, as well as careful exposure to different situations in the environment like traffic, crowds, travelling in the car, vacuum cleaners and any sights and sounds it will have to cope with in life. It is so important that this is done thoroughly and correctly when your puppy is still young and he is young enough to happily accept new things.

Puppies that have been socialised effectively in these early weeks are far less likely to react negatively to new situations, noises, people, dogs and animals than their counterparts, who have not had these important early experiences.

A well socialised puppy is far more likely to integrate easily into your life, therefore making your life together much more enjoyable and rewarding.

There are two parts to socialisation and both are equally important. The first is teaching the puppy to be social with people and other dogs, while the other is about teaching all the things we want the puppy to ignore and not be worried about (noises, traffic, household objects etc.).

Being a companion is the hardest job we ever ask a dog to do as our expectations are so high. We want dogs to get on with everybody and everything, and to go everywhere with us when we want, but be happy to be left alone without complaint.

 If puppies are not socialised correctly it can lead to behaviour problems. Most of these behaviour problems arise from fear (fear of strange noises, fear of being left alone – and indeed aggression nearly always arises from fear – fear of strange dogs, fear of strange people or fear of strange situations. 

Behaviourists and trainers up and down the country are seeing dogs with problems that could so easily have been prevented if the first 16 weeks of that dog’s life had been properly managed, and they had been prepared for the life they were going to lead.

Photograph by Andrey Degtyagev

It is very important that you socialise your puppy very well and keep doing so as they grow, the more effort you put into your puppy the happier it will be as an adult. Bloodhounds can be sensitive if they don’t get to see things, we take ours to village fetes, companion dog shows, into town and outside supermarkets, inside pet shops etc, it is important that your puppy is not overwhelmed or scared during this critical period, puppies can jerk quickly if being silly and slip their lead.

If they are worried about something keep a safe distance away until they are happy with it, if they do not like something do not force them just be gentle and firm and do not let them be silly about it. You can go to training classes but I don’t particularly advise puppy parties that are generally organised by vet practices, these can be badly run and have very badly behaved puppies running amok, which doesn’t do either party any favours.

Do not do too much with your puppy at once, little and often is the best way.

If there are no show training classes (ringcraft) near to you the best thing to do is attend companion/fun dog shows and practice there. (We do not attend classes but do attend lots of companion shows)

Your puppy should have already been introduced to different noises, different surfaces, different play items as well as different play and feeding locations around the house – these different experiences contribute to your puppy’s early development.

The early ground work that the has been put into your puppy’s social and emotional wellbeing has a direct impact on their ability to be fit for function as a family dog. It is imperative as the new owner that you continue this. From around 5 weeks and continuing after the time the puppy goes to his or her new home, an important transition takes place in the puppy’s ability to take in new situations as his natural fearfulness increases. This does not mean that you are going to have a terrified puppy but it does mean that as an owner you need to put the effort in to socialise the puppy during this period being away that it may be silly about things.

It is therefore so important that as new owners this valuable window of opportunity for their puppy to experience new things is not missed – which will close at around 14-16 weeks. 

This time also coincides with your puppy’s vaccinations, so a balance must be struck so not to miss out on this important learning opportunity. This can be achieved by taking your puppy out and about in your arms, while not allowing them to come into direct contact with other dogs until their vaccinations have taken place.

Getting out and about with your puppy is key to them accepting everyday things, such as traffic and busy places, livestock, farm machinery and your veterinary practice as part of normal life, take your puppy into the vets just to get them weighed so that they get used to being in there and nothing bad happening.

It is important that you think about what life as part of your family will entail for a puppy, quite often it is seen that an older puppy goes to a show and the poor thing basically freaks out because it has not been socialised, the owner has never taken it to a show before and it is obvious to see what has gone wrong. Fun dog shows are a great way to start, even if they just go and watch, this is also useful to get them to meet different people, children, the elderly with sticks, pushchairs, wheelchairs, people with hats or umbrellas. 

It is also important to continue to socialise your puppy s he/she gets older so they remain sensible.