The period during which cats and dogs learn openly is from about 7 weeks to 16 weeks of age
After that time, they can still learn, it just takes a lot longer. So, it is important to start socialisation right at the start.
We advise in the case of 7 & 8 week puppies and kittens that they are given a week at home to settle in to what is a strange new experience for them, before attending the surgery. In this first seven days, they can still be exposed to quite a lot of novelty (food, family members, new sleeping arrangements.)
Then very quickly you have to try to expose them in a controlled way with all the experiences with which they will have to cope later on. This may include walking on a lead, toilet training, basic obedience, travel by car/Tube/whatever and the great outdoors.
They must, having now bonded with you, also get used to your absence.
They must learn that you can examine their paws, ears, mouth. If you can’t do it at 8 weeks you will never manage at 8 months. Make a game out of it with treat rewards.
This early period is also when they must accept grooming as a part of life.
There is great confusion and misinformation about puppies ‘going out’. The instruction is not that the pup cannot go out, but that it should not be exposed to the organisms against which the vaccine is given. So, the puppy can go out, just not on the grass (public grass), not sniff at lampposts and other dog’s muck, but can quite happily be walked on a lead on the pavement even before the first vaccination.
The best way to train a puppy to walk on a lead is to partner with someone who has a trained dog. Your puppy will happily keep up with the other dog and not worry too much about the lead. It should have had a collar from day 1.
For more on this topic, see our Podcast, or ask any of our clinical staff.