A Socialisation Checklist For The Aussie Puppy

Updated July 17, 2022

Here you will find a checklist of suggested experiences for Australian puppies before 14 weeks of age. By following our advice, your puppy should grow to be a less fearful and happier adult dog.

Limited puppy preschool places are also available at our clinic on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Why Socialisation Matters

The simple message is this: whatever a puppy has never experienced in a positive way before 14-16 weeks of age is likely to cause fear later.

This brief time is called the sensitive period. It’s when they soak up sights, sounds, smells and new experiences, and say, “this is what my life will contain, and it’s all good”.

Puppy preschool is an integral part of this, by encouraging dog sociability. Just as important is making sure that your puppy experiences what you do. They need to meet lots of different people, go to a variety of places and see, smell and hear a wide range of stimuli.

In the process they normalise these experiences. That way, their life becomes exactly as they expect it to be, and it’s a fun one.

Now contrast all this with the puppy who’s left at home. The lack of dog socialisation makes them fearful of other dogs, so that in time they learn to keep them away using aggression. They rarely play with strange dogs, and instead try to avoid them.

The lack of environmental exposure at the critical time makes them afraid of the world. Anything outside the their narrow social upbringing now gives them fear and anxiety. This might be strangers, cars, crowds or (highly embarrassingly) people who look different.

A Puppy Socialisation Checklist

Just have a look at this checklist of recommended positive experiences for puppies. As you do, think how many of these things we can still do easily. Afterwards, I’ve got some suggestions for using it.

People at the front door
Unfamiliar people of all genders
Tall men or women
Men with loud voices 
Men with beards 
Elderly people
People of many ethnicities 
People wearing hats, helmets 
People wearing high boots 
People wearing hoodies, high vis
People wearing backpacks 
People wearing sunglasses 
People with walking sticks or frames 
Children (quiet & playing)
Toddlers (walking and squealing) 
Babies (crawling) 
People running or riding by 
Homeless people
Friendly dogs (both calm & excitable)
Dogs of all sizes who play well with other dogs
Horses and livestock 
Any other species your puppy will meet
Different surfaces 
Slippery floors (hardwood, vinyl, tiles etc)
Unstable & irregular surfaces
Stairs (metal, wood and solid)
Mud, sand, gravel
Manhole covers & other metal surfaces
Ice, frost, or snow (if needed)
Scary noises
Thunder & heavy rain
Live or amplified music
Babies and kids
Dogs barking
Alarms & sirens
Bird noises
Loud traffic noise
Vacuum cleaners
Lawnmowers, leaf blowers etc
Gunpowder (fireworks, nail gun, bird scarer)
Wheeled things
Skateboards & rollerblades
Mobility scooters
Electric scooters
Wheelie bins 
Shopping carts 
Baby strollers 
Wheel chairs  & chairs with wheels
Cars (stationary & moving)
Buses & trucks
Motorcycles & scooters
Miscellaneous objects 
Blankets or rugs being shaken
Sandwich board signs 
Plastic bags blowing in the wind
New environments 
Suburban streets 
City streets 
Escalators & lifts
Shopping centre car parks
Inside buildings 
Open spaces
Dog boarding (if needed later)
Electric clippers (ideally at the salon)
Nail trimming
Checking between toes & in ears
Toothbrushing (if planned)
Chewing bones (read this first)

Socialisation Guidelines

So here are my suggestions for doing everything possible:

  1. It will be impossible to cover every point on this list; focus on the experiences that your puppy needs to be comfortable with and don’t worry about the rare or unlikely ones unless you have plenty of spare time.
  2. I’ve put five check boxes but just get in as many as you can. Many of these you can do or simulate at home but I have no faith in sound recordings as a substitute for real sounds. Remember that each exposure needs to be a happy one.
  3. You can probably tick off 3/4 of your list just by making sure your puppy goes where you do as much as possible. Vaccines are available that allow puppies to walk from 11 weeks of age* so get on the streets, into parks and down the beach.
  4. Ask your vet about the rate of parvo in your area. Some suburbs are so low in risk that even walking an unvaccinated puppy might be allowed in certain areas.
  5. During walks, ask well-meaning people of all ages, sizes and appearances to make friends with your puppy.
  6. To socialise to a wider range of people, visit other people’s houses, such as an old couple up the street.
  7. Seek out friends with good-natured dogs and do the same, this time for dog socialisation.
  8. Take the time to also teach your puppy to be able to be alone without anxiety. This must be a gradual process, often helped by crate training.
  9. Seek help from the experts. Our puppy preschool instructor, Susanne Eckert (and many like her) is also available for private one on one sessions.

What I wouldn’t do much is use your walks as a way to meet other dogs. Yes, some encounters are great, but I’ve written before about the common problem of on-leash aggression. Too much of it could change how your pup relates to other dogs for good.

Remember: every experience must be a positive one. Make sure your puppy stays relaxed throughout and don’t overwhelm them with too much at once.

Now, it’s over to you.

* These vaccines are given at 10 weeks of age. Ask your vet for more details. If your puppy is not fully vaccinated yet, you can still socialise safely by:

  • Taking him for car rides – stopping the car, put the window down or open the door, letting him view the environment from the inside of the car, or outside of the car in your arms
  • Use a picnic blanket and lead to contain your puppy while at the park or watching people and dogs in the distance
  • If you are able, carry your puppy around to different places, i.e. outside of kids play areas, quiet shopping areas

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

2 Replies to “A Socialisation Checklist For The Aussie Puppy”

  1. Thanks Andrew, if only I had been able to read such an article when our doggies were young! Stay safe x

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