A puppy needs to be fully vaccinated before it is safe for them to go out and about exploring. However, this doesn’t mean they need to spend the first 12 weeks of their lives cooped up without exposure to the outside world (in fact, this would do more harm than good).
Socialisation begins with the breeder, the key socialisation period for a puppy is 4-12 weeks.
We were thrilled that our puppy had come from a family environment where he experienced all the usual noise and activity within a busy family home within those first couple of months of his life. He’d met many people including lots of children and had many siblings to play with too.
At 8 weeks old, we brought Shackleton home and planned to continue his socialisation… But, how do you do this when you can’t take them for a walk yet?
In the first month we had Shackleton we helped socialise him by:
Introducing him to fully-vaccinated dogs in a secure environment (a.k.a our families brought their vaccinated dogs round to meet Shackleton in our garden and we took Shackleton to their gardens too)
Introducing him to friends and family
Carrying him around our favourite places such as the beach, park/woods, town/pet-friendly shops (he wasn’t allowed to put his paws on the floors and walk around but that didn’t mean he couldn’t safely experience the sights, smells, and sounds by being carried)
Sitting in busy(ish) places and watching the world go by (being social doesn’t necessarily mean meeting new people and dogs, for us it also meant being around general day to day life and simply watching everyone go about their day from the safety of a bench or the open boot of the car).
Picking up our new puppy, Shackleton, was one of the most exciting days (although most of it was spent sitting in the car and we were absolutely exhausted by the end of it). As many new owners do, we picked Shackleton up when he was 8 weeks old. At this age he was not yet fully vaccinated which meant we couldn’t start taking him out and about straight away.
Luckily, there was plenty for us to do at home and we have access to a secure garden so there was space for exploring and playing (and toilet training could begin immediately too).
Is An 8 Week Old Puppy Usually Fully Vaccinated?
Not usually, although they may have had their first of two doses of the vaccination. They should have veterinary records that tell you which vaccinations they have received so far.
At 8 weeks our puppy:
Had the first of the two vaccinations (the second was due 4 weeks later at 12 weeks old)
Had been health checked by the vet
Had been wormed at 5 and 7 weeks (his worming was due again at 12 weeks)
Getting Your New Puppy Settled
It takes time for a new puppy to settle into their new home and new surroundings, understandably so. We did find that we were able to help Shackleton feel more settled by playing lots of games with him, giving him plenty of attention and by placing the blanket that has the scent of his mum and litter mates onto his new cosy bed.
We found one of the best ways help our puppy settle in was to start building a bond with them through simple training. Within the first few days, Shackleton had learnt his name and the “sit” command and these simple first steps helped him to feel more confident and comfortable around us and in his new home. As he clearly enjoyed the process of learning new commands we continued to teach him the basics such as “lie down” and “roll over”.
Toilet Training Your New Puppy
One of the biggest challenges of having a new puppy is toilet training them. Not because it’s particularly difficult but because it is EXHAUSTING, you can’t relax as you’re always watching to see if your puppy starts sniffing around like they need to go outside.
We wanted to build Shackleton up for success so we would keep a close eye on him and take him out whenever we thought he MIGHT need to go out, this included when he woke up from a nap, when he had just eaten or drank something, when he sniffed around one spot and whenever we thought he looked a bit “suspicious” haha.
We also took him out into the garden every couple of hours (I’d pick him up and carry him at first to prevent accidents from happening on the way outside). We’d then place him on the grass so he could go for a wee/ poo. If he did, we would say “go for a wee” and reward him with chicken.
Regularly taking your new puppy outside is the best way to prevent accidents indoors (although they will inevitably happen so be prepared). Your puppy will learn that when they go outside to wee or poo they are rewarded and they will soon get the hang out going outside themselves but this is a process that requires patience and consistency.
Advice: When you take your puppy outside to go to the toilet, do not start playing with them. To be honest, you want to be as boring as possible so rather than your puppy getting distracted by you and thinking that every time you go into the garden it’s play time, they can instead sniff around and (hopefully) go to the toilet. Always make a fuss and reward your puppy when they do wee or poo outside.
Night Time With A New Puppy
We decided the best way to approach the nights with Shackleton was to use a crate. At first, we put the crate into our bedroom so he wouldn’t feel alone. The crate had a comfy bed and a blanket that smelt like Shackleton’s mum to help him feel safe and content. I’d take him outside a few times during the night (pick the puppy up and carry them outside to prevent accidents before you get outside) and then he’d go back into his crate to sleep.
We found he took a few minutes to quieten down and settle but then he’d sleep well.