Puppy Socialisation

It is so important to expose your puppy to a wide variety of sights, sound and smells.

Care is important for a healthy and well adjusted dog. Care is more than food and water. It is boundless love and nurturing. It is shelter, bedding, exercise, grooming, health checks, mental stimulation and training. Training is commonly overlooked as an essential activity that comes with owning a dog but it is so important. Beyond commands such as sit and drop, training includes equipping your puppy to cope in a variety of social and daily living environments.Fear is instinctive reaction and without the correct socialisation and exposure, dogs often carry a fear for life. Exposure and socialisation is commonly under-rated but it is the best prevention method for many problem behaviours.

Prior to purchasing a puppy, families should consider whether they are in a position to provide a puppy with adequate socialisation experiences and can commit the time and financial resources for ongoing training.

The critical period time for a puppy is from 6 to 16 weeks. During this time puppies are in their optimal age period to be able to learn from new experiences

Tips for exposing your puppy to a range of environmental experiences

  • Write a list of every potential unfamiliar encounter your dog will face. This list is extensive! It covers machinery such as lawn mowers, objects with wheels such as scooters, bikes and prams to appliances like hair dryers. This list should also include encounters with the elderly and with children as well as different breeds of dogs, both large and small.
  • Desensitise your puppy to loud noises by starting with exposing your puppy to sounds at a distance or low sounds then gradually allow sounds to become closer or more intense. Ensure your puppy is comfortable and is relatively calm (it is natural for your puppy to be attentive/interested).
  • It is helpful to bring toys and treats to an occasion of an unfamiliar experience. A game with toys can relieve stress and create a space of enjoyment. The most important aspect of exposure is that your puppy walks away from a situation with a positive experience.
  • Your energy level and your mind-set is also an important factor. Dogs read body signals so make sure you are relaxed and have an encouraging and confident disposition. You will have much more likelihood that both you and your puppy will have a positive experience in unfamiliar situations if you are cool, calm and collected.

Tips for creating positive socialisation experiences

  • Join a puppy school. Puppy Schools are a great introduction for your puppy to meet different breeds of dogs at a similar level of experience.
  • Stay away from dog parks in the beginning. This tip may seem a little counter-intuitive however it is designed to prevent your puppy from having a negative experience. Dog parks are filled with numerous adult dogs. In addition, new puppy owners do not have enough control over the behaviour and social etiquette of the other dogs in this space. At this stage your puppy is learning how to interact and respect other dogs. It is very much throwing your puppy into the deep end and risking things going terribly wrong.
  • Arrange with neighbours, friends and family to organise playdates with other dogs or puppies. It is important to supervise these interactions to ensure both your puppy and the other dog relate to each other using appropriate social behaviours.
  • Walk your puppy. Puppies cannot go for long walks due to their age and stage of development however you can begin by picking a short route that will give your puppy the opportunity to meet new dogs in a controlled setting. You may choose to start passing dogs from across the road and then progress to passing dogs on the same footpath. Your puppy doesn’t have to directly meet and greet every dog. Getting your puppy comfortable with passing by another dog is important to prevent leash aggravation.
  • Boundaries for your puppy are necessary. Family hierarchy also comes into play with this topic. Your equivalent to a dogs growl is your voice. A cold word (low pitched) such as “NO” conveys to your dog that something doesn't please you and also acts as a warning to correct a behaviour. It is extremely important that in contrast, a dog is rewarded for any wanted behaviour. A hot word (high pitched) such as “GOOD!” conveys that you are pleased with this. Reinforcements such as pats and treats are paired. Set your dog up to always have an option for success.

    If you would be interested in assistance in further socialisation training with your puppy, please feel free to contact Briellen Ramsay at Blue Ribbon Dog Training.

    Experiences the dog receives during the critical periods in development have a much more profound effect than at any other time. A dog that has had the right experiences early is far more prepared for everything in life”.

    Dr J.P Scott

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