Puppy Socialisation

Puppy Socialisation


My name is Jacquie Chalmers.  I have been a breeder of Lhasa Apsos for 30 years now and I have learned from my peers and by my own mistakes.  I do not profess to be an expert but I do have years of experience, and I may add I am still learning.


What my talk today will be about is the socialisation of puppies.


First I will begin with the time to start the socialisation program.


Socialising a puppy correctly and at the right time will be the most important stage in their lives.

From 6 weeks of age until about 4 months of age is a critical time for the training process, if mistakes are made in this period the puppy may not end up happy and balanced.


What I mean by a puppy being balanced is that they are happy, out-going, non aggressive, inquisitive and a social dog.


In the first few weeks when they are new born they should be left undisturbed as much as you possibly can with their mother just feeding and sleeping.


When you think about it we are all born into the world not knowing what species we belong to, this applies to all life, so like every other creature the puppy needs to identify with their own species, they will acquire this information in a unique process called imprinting.


This process of imprinting begins with the puppy playing games with its siblings and its mother.

At about 5 weeks puppies start to play war games chasing each other’s ears and muzzles.

These games help them to learn the rules of pack life, puppies are testing for domination and submission, if they lay on their backs with their hind paws spread apart it means they have lost the battle, these games are all part of good socialisation.


As an adult this enables them to avoid rejection or fights with other dogs.

If however the puppy is raised with other species i.e. cats, rabbits and even a stuffed animal (toy) they may end up identifying with species that they live with.


If there is a complete absence of other dogs between 3 and 16 weeks the puppy will identify with the nearest species (i.e. humans etc)

This can happen to a singleton puppy.

As an adult they tend to prefer the species that they have identified with and can show aggression towards their own species.  In order to avoid this the pup should be raised in a group with their mother until at least 8 weeks if possible.


Dogs have a natural in-built biological program which makes them interact socially with other species, so they must be introduced to them early in their lives so that they will not attack them later.  Different people must be introduced to them at an early age, men women and children, and this must continue until 3-4 months of age.

This interaction will not prevent the puppy’s identification with his own species.


Another important part of the socialisation process is noise, puppies need to be exposed to such noises as the vacuum cleaner, washing machines etc at an early age, puppies that grow up outside away from human noise have a hard time socialising when they go to their new homes,


There are DVD’s available now with noise’s for puppies thunder, fireworks etc, I personally have not tried them, but feel that they could be useful.


Show training and handling techniques


This is the way that I start my training for the show ring.

When the puppies are about three weeks old I start handling the puppies more, introducing grooming with a soft babies brush, I also get them used to having their nails and pads trimmed, I usually give them their first bath at around 5 weeks old in the dog sink.  I dry them with a very old noisy stand dryer, after this first bath I then proceed to stand them each day.


I find that starting the grooming regime early in their lives the puppies grow accustomed to it very early on and accept that this part of their daily routine.

When the puppies go to a pet home I give their new guardians an instruction sheet on the techniques of grooming for beginners.  Lets face it, a lot of new owners may not have a clue where to start with the basics so hopefully this advice will be adhered to and helpful to them.


My lhasa apso’s have their hair bands in as soon as the hair is long enough.  This can be a problem when they go into the show ring because they are used to being able to see with no hair covering their eyes, so when I am lead training or at ring craft I take the bands out, I make sure that I comb the hair back from their eye so that they can see, after a while I find that the puppy trusts his handler to be his guide when the hair covers his eyes.


 At 7-8 weeks old I introduce them to the lead, if they do not like it I do not force the work on the lead I will leave it for another 2 weeks before I try again, I start by walking them around the garden with an adult this soon gets them happy on the lead.

My experience tells me that the Lhasa apso can be notoriously bad for lead training, I never condone forcing them.  I have learned the hard way that with a Lhasa Apso this just does not work.


Ring craft class’s work for some Lhasa Apso’s but not for all, I do not take mine to ring craft very often as I find it can put them off from the start, I now tend to train them at home, introducing them to as many different people as possible, taking them to places that are strange and new to them, introducing to as many every day noise’s as possible that they may encounter at shows when they are old enough I enter them not for completion at club shows this enables them at an early age to get used to the dog show environment.

At around 6 weeks old I take the puppies (caged) for a car drive (every day if possible) around the local area. You then learn if you have any bad travelers.  After a few outings they begin to look forward to their outings and quite enjoy this.     


In preparation for the first time in the show ring I use a lead which has a wide soft piece where it meets their throat.  As The Lhasa Apso

Is notorious for not liking the lead in the beginning I use a lead which is friendly to the dog’s neck when they get older.


 I prefer to use a round leather lead especially with the male of the species, as they can be quite strong.


I do a lot of practice with dogs at home, this is very important.  I stack a puppy on the grooming table as I would in the show ring.  I start by only doing this for a few seconds and I always give them a lot of praise, then I lengthen the time of stacking; I never get cross with the puppy.  I ask my husband to go over the puppy, as a judge would do in the show ring, all the time building up the time on the table, so when they get into the show ring this is a familiar experience.


Practice your triangle and up and down a lot in your garden so this is another familiar experience.  If you have other dogs who are already ring trained use them to help you train your puppy, the puppy will follow the example given by an older more experienced dog.


A few tips;


Go in the ring happy and confident this will translate to the puppy a happy confident frame of mind, as a nervous handler will make your puppy nervous too.

Watch the better handlers at the show and learn from them.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions of them as many are only too happy to help you and they all had to start somewhere.

Get to the show early this will settle the puppy as well as yourself.

Remember as a fellow exhibitor told me, most of the work is done at home before you get to the show.

Remember enjoy yourself and enjoy your puppy.


Jacquie Chalmers

Chethang Lhasa Apso’s