Socialising your dog
A well socialised dog is a pleasure to have around, for both the owner and anyone else within the vicinity, whether it be other dogs, their owners or just people in general. We've all seen bad behaviour in dogs, but just as with people, dogs will copy what they see and what owners let them get away with. They are not born with the skills that are needed to live harmoniously with their family, be it human or dog.There is a huge amount of truth in the saying 'There are no bad dogs, just bad owners'. Having a dog in your life is both a great responsibility and the potential for a loyal and rewarding relationship.
When do I start socialising my puppy?
Without doubt the earlier the better. As a young puppy they are not that different to humans in that they are open to any and all new experiences, whether they be benign or malicious. A puppy is totally without fear in the first few weeks and will approach anything and anybody on equal terms.After a few months many brand new experiences will be approached with a certain sense of trepidation and caution, so it is vital to cram in as many positive experiences within this early period. After this time it may take more time for your dog to become accustomed to new and different experiences.Most owners will receive their puppy at around 6 or 8 weeks, so there is still plenty of time for your new companion to experience new things.
How do I socialise my puppy?
It's really not that difficult. Once they have settled into their new home, which will be full of new experiences anyway, simply try to involve them in as many encounters as possible. Be careful not to overwhelm them, but to introduce them in a natural and relaxed atmosphere. Do it in such a way that they are not likely to become alarmed or fearful, so don't bring them to a noisy children's party as the first introduction to children.
It makes your own life so much easier if your dog is relaxed around the company of other humans and naturally wants to meet and greet your friends and family without becoming either anxious or overly excited.
Early sessions need not amount to more than a few hours each day for at least the first 12 months.
Methods and tips for socialising your puppy
Sounds: let them get them used to a wide variety of sounds, from the TV, children playing, cars, you name it. Nothing too intense initially though, as it's better to let your puppy get used to things gradually.Proper handling: treat them gently but let them get used to people picking them up and holding them. Allow friends and family to pet your puppy gently, stroking their back and sides and feet.Look out for any signs of anxiety: puppy socialising should be fun and enjoyable for all concerned, but keep an look out for any signs of anxiety in your puppy. It may suddenly be too loud or rough for them. Ideally keep the initial contact periods fairly short so that they don't get too tiring for them. A happy puppy will look keen and alert and stand up tall with his tail wagging.
Socialising with other dogs
Additional care needs to be taken when teaching your puppy to socialise with other dogs. In the early stages it is better to have them socialise with dogs you are already familiar with and whose temperament is well known to you. Also, since your puppy will not have had their vaccinations in the early months, ensure that any dogs you come in contact have their jabs up-to-date. Well tempered adult dogs are usually more than happy to have a new playmate and will teach them about the pack hierarchy if your puppy steps out of line.
Meeting other animals
Many households have other animals and it is wholly sensible to introduce your puppy to them as early as is possible. Cats and dogs seem to have a reputation for hating each other but early socialisation can make them the best of friends.
Puppy classes and formal training
Whilst most of the work of socialising and educating your dog should be taken at home, a well structured training class can be an invaluable experience for you and your dog. See if you can find anybody to recommend a local class, and have an initial look by yourself to check how well organised it is.
Rewards and treats
Praise and reward your dog when he does the right thing and make a fuss over him. And likewise, be firm and assertive if he exhibits behaviour that is not acceptable.
Nutrix have a range of hypoallegenic dog treats which are perfect for treating and rewarding your dog's good behaviour.
Photo by Cristian Castillo