Blues people at 10 weeks
10 weeks old and full of life, Blue is a fast learner, confident and ‘into everything’. At this age we have to manage the health risks of not yet being fully vaccinated, against the equally important task of making sure he is well socialised.
In the back of my head at all times is the fact that by 16 weeks of age (yes, just 4 months old) a puppy’s ability to adapt to new situations will start to wane. These weeks are crucial to developing a well rounded pup, in a behavioural sense. There is some great advice on the Blue Cross website:
I appreciated this quote:
“Since keeping a puppy isolated until your dog is 13 weeks old [when some vaccination courses are completed] can ruin its future character, a compromise must be reached between the need to protect against disease, and the need to ensure good mental health.”
My usual advice is, that if you have friends and family with dogs that a)are healthy and b) have not been in contact with unhealthy dogs recently, then (with caution) allow your pup some play time with these dogs in a safe environment – your own house / garden or that of the ‘safe’ dog, where no other dogs have been recently. Living out in the countryside we are lucky to have several friends and neighbours whose dogs and gardens fit the bill. We also took the opportunity to visit Blue’s birth home, where his mum, litter mate and another familiar dog live.
Blue has had some great experiences playing with these dogs, and learns really quickly when he has ‘pushed it too far’. Play must be supervised to reduce the risk of a bad or overwhelming experience, but it’s important not to fuss about with your pup too much, as they may pick up on stress or anxiety from the humans around them, and this can interfere with their play. Being on the lead can also change the way a dog interacts with other dogs, so it is great to find a place where it is safe for your pup to play off lead. We have also used a ‘long lead’ for this, which we can let go so Blue can play freely with another dog, but we can reign him back in if play becomes inappropriate, or he makes a dart for something he shouldn’t (such as an open gate or a garden pond, for instance).
I always think of it in terms of ‘body language’. We teach our children to speak and to understand language. It follows that it is important for pups to learn ‘dog language’ and the only way for a pup to learn this all-important body language is from another dog.
‘Socialisation’ is the process of meeting other dogs and humans, whilst ‘Habituation’ is getting your pup used to noises, smells and other inanimate experiences. Both are equally important in these early months, and there is no reason at all why habituation cannot start as soon as your pup arrives. Make sure that any experiences aren’t overwhelming (which is why getting a pup around Christmas time is always a bad idea – far too much noise and lack of routine going on), and that you do not inadvertently create more anxiety for your pup by ‘praising’ any fear they may have.
Often it is best to carry on your normal noisy routines – washing machine, hoovering, lawn mowing etc – whilst keeping your pup safe in an adjacent room, so they are not forced to ‘face’ the source of the noise, but get used to it gradually. Blue does not give a monkey’s about cars, lawn mowers or strimmers already – the first time he heard the strimmer he certainly noticed it, but as we left him roam around the garden freely, but under supervision whilst it was in use, he soon accepted the noise. The next time he heard it, he didn’t even appear to notice. There are loads of resources available to help your pup get used to noises that they may not come across naturally in their first few months (eg fireworks), such as the ‘Sounds Sociable’ section at
Further notes on vaccination and timing of socialisation:
The current vaccination regime used at The Oak is to give the first injection from 7-8 weeks then the second one 3-4 weeks later. For some of the viral components of the vaccine (parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus) immunity is good from 3 weeks after the first injection (regardless of when the 2nd vaccination is given), so for these particular diseases you do not need to wait any longer before your dog can socialise safely in the wider world. However, protection against parainfluenza and leptospirosis will not be complete until 3-4 weeks after the second injection, so caution must still be exercised where these particular infections may be prevalent. Parainfluenza is a component of ’kennel cough’ so it is wise to keep you pup away from dogs with coughing, sneezing or eye/nose discharges until they are fully protected. The same applies for leptospirosis – risks are standing water, mud, farmland and wildlife-rich areas, as leptospirosis is spread through the urine of rats and other wildlife. So go carefully in these situations until a month after the second vaccination. Keeping annual boosters up-to-date is vitally important too, and at The Oak the regime avoids over vaccinating, whilst maintaining the best protection for our patients.