The “puppy Rules Of Twelve”

The puppy rules of twelve is a handy guideline for puppy owners of a selection of stimulus that puppies should have been exposed to by the time they reach around twelve weeks old. It was first conceived of by a professional dog trainer and behaviourist called Margaret Hughes, as a range of twelve different types of stimulus from different categories that the twelve week old puppy should get used to.

If you first buy or adopt your new puppy at the age of twelve weeks, you may not know exactly how far the breeder or seller already got with exposing the puppy to the various recommended stimulus. It is important to get going as soon as your puppy has settled in, to ensure that your puppy gets used to all of the sights, sounds, smells and activities that they will face as they grow older. Read on to learn more about the puppy rules of twelve!

Different walking surfaces

By the time your puppy is twelve weeks old, they should have experienced walking on twelve different types of surfaces. Try to find a range of different textures and walking surfaces for your puppy to get to grips with, including:

  • Carpet
  • Wood
  • Cement
  • Dry grass
  • Wet grass
  • Gravel
  • Mud
  • Dirt
  • Puddles
  • Unevenly textured surfaces
  • Leaves
  • Sand

Toys and play

Ensure that your puppy is given a wide range of different objects, games, puzzles toys and textures to play with, including:

  • Toys that make a noise
  • Hard balls
  • Soft balls
  • Plastic toys
  • Soft toys
  • Wooden toys
  • Paper and cardboard
  • Interactive toys
  • Toys that move
  • Chew toys
  • Fabric toys such as ropes and pull toys
  • Hide strips

Experience of new places

Until your dog has received all of their vaccinations and gets the ok from your vet to go out into the world where they will be exposed to the presence of other dogs, you may be rather limited as to what kind of stimulus you can expose your puppy to. However, when your puppy is twelve weeks old or soon after, they should have experienced a range of different environments and places, such as:

  • Your garden or yard
  • Your home
  • Other people’s homes
  • Outside of a school or playground
  • A car
  • A lift
  • Stairs
  • The veterinary surgery
  • A kennel
  • A training group or canine social
  • A park
  • Water, such as a beach, pond or river

People and play

It is important to get your puppy used to the presence of other people, of all different “varieties” and from all walks of life, as your puppy will almost certainly come across all of them over the course of their life! Yourself and members of your family will be your puppy’s pack, and so you cannot be counted in their twelve different experiences of people! Try to introduce your puppy to all sorts of people and situations, including:

  • Adult males
  • Adult females
  • Female children
  • Male children
  • Elderly people
  • Young children or babies
  • A person in a wheelchair
  • A person who walks with a stick or a cane
  • People in hats
  • People in sunglasses
  • People of a variety of races
  • People with special needs

Exposure to sound

The world is a very noisy place, particularly for the growing puppy who is new to everything! It is vital to get your puppy used to a wide range of sounds, both common sounds that they will hear often, and more unusual noises that might catch them unawares! Make sure that no sudden or particularly loud noises shock or scare your puppy, as this can be counter-productive. Some suggestions to include are:

  • The doorbell
  • A noisy baby or child
  • Cars and trucks
  • A motorcycle
  • The washing machine
  • The vacuum cleaner
  • Clapping
  • Singing
  • The television or radio
  • Scooters or skateboards
  • An alarm, such as a car alarm or smoke alarm
  • Clattering sounds such as dropped keys or pans

Exposure to fast movement

A person or object suddenly zooming past you can be unnerving even for people, and even more so for puppies! Exposing your puppy to fast-moving things safely is important for a range of reasons; so that your puppy does not fear it, so that they learn not to chase things if they are so prone to, and so that they learn to stay out of the way and not walk into the path of something fast moving.

Try to expose your puppy to a selection of speedy things such as the following list:

  • A car passing them
  • A motorcycle passing them
  • A pushbike
  • A truck or lorry
  • A person running or jogging
  • A cat running
  • Children running around
  • Skateboards and scooters
  • People on rollerblades
  • Larger or older dogs
  • Remote control toys
  • Pushchairs designed for sport and jogging

Make everything a positive experience for your puppy

It is important that exposing your puppy to any type of external stimulus is always a positive experience for them, as the “rules of twelve” are designed to get your puppy used to the stimulus they will face in their day-to-day life so that they do not fear it or display undesirable behaviours. It is counter-productive to over stimulate your puppy or push them outside of their comfort zone, so make sure that you work at your puppy’s own pace.

While the twelve week old rule for exposure to all of these things is a guideline, work at your puppy’s own pace, and don’t worry if it takes longer to expose your puppy to all of the stimulus that you can, in order to ensure that you go about things in the right way and do not stress them out or scare them.


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