Puppy socialisation

Starting one week after you get your puppy (age 8 or 9 weeks), get him out at the very least one day a week to a new situation he has never seen before. This takes some planning, but is worth the effort. You will have a wonderful companion in your dog for up to 15 years so the effort you put in now will reap rewards for many, many years to come. Below are just some suggestions, remember it is also important not to take your puppy where he will be in any real danger. If he or she shows fear stay where you are until your puppy relaxes and then give them much praise when they relax. It is only human to want to comfort a puppy who is tense or unhappy with a situation, but if you do this you are only teaching your pup that fear is good and this will lead to problems later in life.

8 Weeks: A walk (off leash) in a field or park with medium tall grass. Keep him with you by voice. Encourage him to climb over a little mound of dirt or a log. Praise his efforts to do something he has never done before. Walk just fast enough that he has to strain very slightly to keep up with you. At this age his desire to stay with you is very keen. Capitalise on that. The walk should take no more than 20 minutes.

9 Weeks: Another walk, this time in the bush. He is in taller grass and weeds. He must occasionally climb over small logs (Just big enough to be a challenge). He goes up the hill, down the hill, over the rocks, maybe down a small bank. The perfect setup is where he goes across a small creek. He gets wet up to the chest. He scrambles up the bank to follow you. He goes through a thick carpet of leaves that crunch when he walks. Encourage him all the way. Praise him for meeting the challenge. The walk takes about 20 minutes.

10 Weeks: The same as age 9 weeks but a bit more difficult. Occasionally hide momentarily from him when he is distracted in the woods. Watch him. Does he notice you are missing? If he does, and starts to look for you, suddenly appear and praise profusely. If he doesn't look for you, toss a pebble to make him notice you are missing. Then call him from your hiding place. When he starts to look for you, appear and praise him. This will teach him, as it is repeated time and time again, to watch you when you are out in the woods, instead of you having to constantly be watching where he is. This makes him take that responsibility of staying with you. Play this game over and over through many weeks until you cannot hide from him because he is always watching. This only works when started young.

11 Weeks: Take him swimming. You hold him and wade out to knee deep water. Point him toward shore and gently let him go. Be sure he gets his head up and he heads for shore. Have someone on shore encouraging him in a positive way. Another way to approach this is to entice him into the water by going in yourself and encouraging him to follow. Do not throw him in! When you are through get him out and dry him off and go home. Don't let him get chilled.

12 Weeks: Take a trip to the farm. Let him see cows, horses, chickens and whatever else you can find. This time you can keep him on leash. Make sure he is safe from the animals and let him get close enough to sniff. This outing can take 20 or more minutes. You have a positive attitude about all this. Be nonchalant about it all, as if this is what every 12 week old pup does.

13 Weeks: Take him on leash to town. Walk him on a main street with medium to light foot traffic. He sees and hears cars, trucks and heavy street traffic. He passes by many people walking bicycles, deliverymen with hand trucks, etc. This should be a short outing about 10 minutes. Praise him lavishly for positive behaviour. Be nonchalant and very encouraging. When you get back to the car, lay on the praise for his remarkable feats of courage.

14 Weeks: A trip to the beach or some other special place he has never been. Perhaps a trip to the local primary school front lawn when all the children are pouring out. Let the kids stop and pet him. Let him see and be in the crowd.

15 Weeks: Another trip to town.

16 Weeks: Your pup's major learning age of his entire life is now over. Hopefully you have given him a very wide range of experiences. If you have done all this faithfully you will have taught him the most important thing of all to learn and it will stay with him the rest of his life, enabling him to continue to learn throughout his lifetime. Other good places to go are outside industrial sheds that make a lot of noise, to the bus depot, to the train station, to the wharf, down jetties or planks - just remember to keep it safe for your puppy.

17 to 21 Weeks: This is a bad time to subject your pup to stress, such as plane trips, a stay at the vets, boarding kennel or any threatening situation. Many pups act very fearful at this age. This should be a quiet time in their lives.

Other things you should be doing with your pup are:


Baths: Get your pup accustomed to getting a bath while he is still small enough to handle easily. Give him 3 or 4 baths between the ages of 2 and 5 months. NEVER, EVER USE HARSH SHAMPOO'S and NEVER USE LAUNDRY PRODUCTS - your dog's system can not cope with these and they could cause serious long-term harm. If your puppy is not smelly use warm water only, if in need of a shampoo use a mix 50% baby shampoo and 50% water, or purchase a very mild gentle dog shampoo for dog and water that down. Take care not to get water in his ears or eyes, or shampoo anywhere on his head. Leave his head dry if possible and use a wet towel or cloth to rub his head down. Boxers are naturally clean dogs and most adults rarely need baths - many grown Boxers are probably bathed only every 3 - 4 months, if that! Of course if your dog is smelly or dirty they require a bath, but be aware that frequent bathing will strip the natural oils from his coat. There is absolutely no excuse for your puppy to have fleas and or ticks in this day and age. There are many good products on the market and are available at your vet's. Many people avoid using anything 'unnatural' on their dogs (for very good reason), but current flea treatments are the exception. The health problems associated with fleas and ticks are much worse than the products available - "Frontline" or "Advantage" are very popular but there are a couple of other good products as well, speak to your vet about what would best suit your dog and even your lifestyle.

Nails: You must keep your dogs nails trimmed. A dog that lives inside and doesn't get his nails trimmed may have damage to his feet from too long nails. Start trimming your pup's nails as soon as you get him. Trim the nails about every other week. If you do this now he will learn to accept it Wait until he is grown and you will probably have a fight on your hands. Don't put off learning to do your dog's nails. "I can't do it because I am afraid I will hurt him" is no excuse. Everyone has to learn sometime. You owe it to your pup to keep his nails clipped. You will hurt him more by letting it go. Get your vet or someone experienced in nail clipping to demonstrate the correct procedure.

Grooming: Put your pup on your washer on a towel for grooming sessions. Brush him and clip his nails. Do this right from the first weeks you get him. Expect him to stand still and let you groom him. Don't let him get out of this by acting up. This is all part of taking care of your dog.

Sharon Steele