Roger Salmon column

The process of socialisation should begin from two to three weeks of age and should carry on until the puppy is at least 12 months old.

The most critical time is from 12 to 14 weeks of age.

Everything a puppy sees, hears, feels, smells and tastes produces trillions of new brain connections in the first 16 weeks of age and they will last for a lifetime.

A puppy properly reared in this period will be far more likely to grow up confident, calm, learn new things more easily, be less likely to respond to new things fearfully or aggressively and therefore is more likely to become a good family dog.

Socialisation can include:

*Humans: The more happy encounters your puppy has with adults and children of different ages, the more tolerant he will become.

*Other dogs and puppies: Allow your puppy to mix with sociable vaccinated dogs and puppies and interrupt any behaviour you do not want your puppy to experience. It is also advisable to take him to a puppy party where he can learn to mix with others. Most good veterinary practices run these parties for clients regularly where vets and nurses encourage the socialisation process and give tips on all health issues such as worming, feeding, vaccination and flea prevention.

*Different experiences and environments: Take your puppy on trips to enable him to experience car travel, traffic, crowds, town and countryside. Until your puppy is fully vaccinated (10 to 12 weeks old) he will be unable to mix freely with unvaccinated dogs or walk where other dogs have been.

*Other animals: Puppies should meet a variety of animals e.g. cats, livestock and horses , but it is advisable to keep your pet on a lead to prevent him from learning to chase them.

*Household items: Think about all the engines and machines your puppy is likely to encounter throughout life and familiarise him with their sight and sounds such as the whirr of washing machines and vacuum cleaners.

Juvenile dogs from three to six months of age need continual training to develop good manners so it is best to go to training classes.