Are you concerned about socialising your puppy before their vaccinations?
The majority of vets advise that puppies don’t go outside before they’re fully protected against disease. But keeping your unvaccinated puppy inside all day could hinder them later in life–which is why you’ll need to start socialising them as soon as possible.
In this guide, we’ll share:
- Why you should socialise your puppy
- When the puppy socialisation period starts (and ends)
- How to safely take your puppy outside before their jabs
- 7 places to socialise your unvaccinated puppy
- A free, printable puppy socialisation checklist
Ready? Let’s dive in.
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Why should I socialise my puppy?
Before they’re fully protected with their vaccinations, your puppy is cooped-up all day. They don’t get to see what the outside world looks like (unless they’re playing in your back garden), and don’t have the opportunity to socialise with other dogs.
…That’s dangerous. Unsocialised puppies can be aggressive when they’re adult dogs, which could explain why 33.7% of dog deaths were linked to undesirable behaviour problems.
But without socialising your puppy throughout this all-important socialisation period, they won’t have the skills they need to interact with other dogs safely, might be fearful around other people, and likely be frightful of everyday things outside of the safety of your home–such as cars, loud noises, or children.
Anything unfamiliar to an adult dog will cause anxiety–which is why you should start to socialise your puppy as early as possible.
Professional dog trainer Danielle Mühlenberg explains:
Socialization is the single most important time in puppy development. The goal here is to let the young puppy positively experience as many situations as possible to boost his confidence and prepare him for the environment, including other dogs, people, places, and sounds.
When is the puppy socialisation period?
Between 8 and 12 weeks, your puppy is a learning sponge.
They take everything in, and learn right from wrong… But unvaccinated puppies are only allowed to explore the great outdoors after their jabs, by which point they’re nearing the end of the puppy socialisation period.
That’s why your socialisation attempts need to start as soon as your bring your new puppy home.
Can I carry my puppy outside before vaccinations?
Taking your puppy outside before they’ve had their jabs can be daunting. Diseases like Parvovirus, Leptospirosis, and Parainfluenza are all potentiall fatal, with the majority of infections being caught by puppies who’ve been in the same area as an infected dog (like the park).
However, socialising your puppy means they’ll need to be outside, taking in the big wide world.
You’ll need to do that safely by carrying your puppy in your arms pre-vaccinations, and not allowing them on the floor where other (potentially unvaccinated dogs) have been.
(Socialisation is so important that when I took Hugo to the vets for his 8-week jabs, the vet told me that there’s a bigger risk of not socializing him than catching an infection outside.)
You can get a sling to carry your pup, or simply hold them in your arms with their favourite blanket.
The mental stimulation they’ll get from smelling the fresh air, watching cars zoom by, and playing with other dogs is a great way to exercise an unvaccinated puppy.
Can my puppy socialise with vaccinated dogs?
Yes! Even if your puppy has not finished their vaccination course, you can socialise them with vaccinated dogs. Just make sure the place you’re mixing them is safe, where any other unvaccinated dogs won’t have been–like your back garden, for example.
7 places to socialise your puppy
Are you ready to start carrying your puppy into the big wide world, and prepare him for a lifetime of fun when he’s finished his course of vaccinations?
You might be struggling for places to take him, or people to make sure he interacts with.
In this guide, we’re sharing seven places you should be socialising puppies before vaccinations, including:
- Your family and friends
- Vaccinated puppies and dogs
- Other animals
- The park
- Bus and train stations
- Your daily errands
- The vets
Click one of the links above to jump to a section, continue scrolling, or click here to head straight to your free printable puppy socialisation checklist.
1. Your family and friends 👩👦👦
When you bring home your bundle of joy, it’s tempting to turn away visitors if your puppy is exhausted. The trip home is likely to have exhausted them, and they’ll need lots of sleep and rest to truly settle in.
However, don’t forget to make time to socialise your puppy with family and friends.
Try to make sure your puppy is socialising with a wide range of people, like:
- Young children
That way, when your puppy grows up and is allowed outside (on the floor) they’ll know how to interact with people they see on their journey.
(If you’re planning to have children in the future, this is essential. Puppies who’ve interacted with other children and babies are less aggressive towards them because they’re familiar.)
2. Vaccinated puppies and dogs 🐩
“Can my puppy socialise with vaccinated dogs?” is a question you’re probably asking… Rightly so.
You should be socialising your unvaccinated puppy with other dogs who are fully vaccinated, either in your home (where your puppy feels safe) or in theirs–so long as you keep an eye on your puppy’s body language and remove them if it’s too stressful.
Some vets do puppy training classes to facilitate these meetings. In fact, we took Hugo to puppy parties once a week from the age of 10 weeks, which helped him get used to meeting other puppies before he was officially allowed to play outside.
Puppies learn to interact with other dogs by practicing. Socialising them with other dogs as soon as possible will do them a world of good.
3. Other animals 🐄
Chances are, your adult dog will come into contact with other animals when they’re on their adventures. Animals like:
…are all great animals to check off your puppy socialisation checklist–especially if you live in the countryside, or plan to introduce your Spaniel to a new cat.
Try your best to make sure your dog sees these animals during the 8-12 week puppy socialisation period.
For example: You could take your puppy to a friend’s house to play with their cat, or carry your puppy to a local field to stare at the cows.
Whatever you do will pay-off in the long run, when you don’t have to stop your dog chasing an unfamiliar animal 10x the size of him!
4. The park 🏞
The first place you’ll take your puppy off their lead is likely to be the park. It’s a great place for them to run around and meet new doggy friends–but what about visits to the park before your pup’s vaccinations?
So long as you carry him in your arms, your puppy will thrive on trips to the park.
These regular, short bursts of park trips will get your puppy used to things they’ll encounter on their walks–from other dogs (of all sizes), to the noise of crisp packets trailing across the floor.
5. Bus or train stations 🚃
One report found that 49% of dog owners say that their furry friend shows behavioural signs of fear when they hear loud noises.
Sure, your puppy might be able to hear (and see) cars when they pass by your window. But carrying your unvaccinated to a bus or train station allows them to get used to larger vehicles–and the noises that come along with them.
This is a great way to socialise your puppy if you don’t have family, friends, or puppy pals that can come to your home.
Simply pack your puppy up in the car, drive to a bus or train station, and sit for a few minutes with them (and a cosy blanket) in your arms. He’ll love watching the world go by.
6. The vets 🏥
For many puppies, the vets is a bad place. They only go there when they’re getting stabbed with a needle and prodded all over the place, right?
Not necessarily. It’s a good idea to regularly take your unvaccinated puppy to the vets without an appointment.
Simply ask the receptionist if you can bring your puppy to get used to the environment, and give them lots of praise (and treats!) when you get there.
Kelly Meister, author of Crazy Critter Lady, adds:
“You can schedule a short meet-and-greet with your vet, so that your puppy has a change to get to know the vet’s voice and smell at a time when there won’t be any ouchies involved.
It’s going to be a long relationship between your pup and the vet, so starting off on the right foot is important.”
It won’t be long before the vet becomes one of your puppy’s happy places.
7. Your daily errands ☕️
Do you need to run a few errands in the evening?
Don’t leave your pup cooped up at home; use it as an excuse to start socialising them by taking them with you!
For example, I took Hugo to run my daily errands at places like:
- The Post Office
- The dog food shop
- Our local cafe
Most places don’t allow dogs to enter the premises. However, in my experience, they’ve been fine if you carry the puppy in your arms.
A free puppy socialisation checklist
Here’s a printable puppy socialisation checklist you can use to tick-off the places you’re visiting:
Things to remember when socialising your puppy
Here’s a recap of the things we’ve talked about when socialising your puppy before injections:
- Socialisation at a young age is key to happy, anxiety-free adult dogs.
- Never allow your unvaccinated puppy on the floor where other animals have been before; always carry your puppy in your arms when taking ticking places off your socialisation checklist.
- The more high-quality experiences you can give your dog, the better.
- Always remove your puppy from the situation if they show extreme signs of distress.
Now it’s off to play! The park, a friend’s house, or a fun trip to the vet–your unvaccinated puppy doesn’t need to be bored (and tear your house up) when you start ticking off your checklist.