Why Do We Need The Puppy Socialisation Plan?

From the moment a litter of puppies is planned, both the breeder, and then later the new owner, want to do everything possible to make sure that each new puppy has the chance to grow up to  realise his or her full potential. Thanks to the advances in health testing for both the puppy's parents and later themselves, coupled with responsible breeding, we can do much to make sure puppies are physically healthy and ‘fit for function’ – but for the vast majority of dogs, no matter what their start in life, this function will be that of a much-loved family dog. 

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 – not to knock over the children or visitors, nor chase the cat, or bark at the postman (or anyone else).  To go everywhere with us when we want but be happy to be left alone without complaint when we don’t; to be accepting of loud noises, strangers, other dogs…. The list is endless. So what we need to give puppies in order to give them a good start in life is essential knowledge for any breeder, puppy rearer or new dog owner.

While many breeders understand the principles of raising puppies that are best placed to become excellent family or companion dogs, many are not getting it right. One of the major causes of death in dogs under two years old is euthanasia as a result of behaviour problems*. Not only that, but many people find themselves with a dog whose behaviour is difficult to live with. Far too many dogs are ending up in rescue centres, and 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.

Many breeders put a lot of time and effort into making sure their puppies are well socialised but others, while trying to do the very best for their puppies, are not so aware of the importance of this vitally important time or know how to manage it. In addition, the public are, on the whole, not aware of how important socialisation is, and so do not realise the importance of going to a breeder who makes sure that their puppies get those vital early experiences in  their first few weeks that are needed to make sure they are psychologically and therefore behaviourally fit for this function. 

Until the puppy-buying public realises how vital this is, they will continue to buy puppies from dubious sources, fuelling the puppy farm business and putting money into the pockets of unscrupulous breeders. 

The Puppy Plan is a step-by-step, simple but comprehensive, socialisation plan that starts with the breeder (or the puppy rearer, if different) who works through the first vital eight weeks. When the puppy goes to his new home, the Plan is then passed onto the new owner to continue.

About the Author

Carolyn Menteith DipCABT, KCAI is a qualified and experienced dog trainer and behaviourist with over 20 years’ experience working professionally with animals both nationally and internationally. As well as working with dogs and their owners to help them have a happy life together, Carolyn has written several books, many articles, and has appeared on a variety of TV and radio programmes as a dog expert. Carolyn also works with a variety of rescue and welfare organisations, and has written and presents the Dogs Trust iPhone app ‘You and Your Puppy from Dogs Trust’, as well as presenting some of their dog training films online.

Additional input from Robert Falconer-Taylor  BVetMed, DipCABT, MRCVS

*McKeown and Luescher (1988), Heath (1992), Appleby et al (2002 and 2004), Wells (1996), Overall (1997), Dreschel (2010) ad nauseum