12/05/2018 - Latest News
Do you want to be able to take your dog out to lunch? Play with him on the beach? Or even take him on holiday with you? If your new puppy is going to be a true member of your family, you need to be confident that he won’t embarrass you – or worse – hurt other dogs or people. That’s what puppy socialisation is all about.
The dictionary defines socialisation as “the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society”. In dog terms, that means, learning to feel safe and confident living amongst humans.
The human world must be a scary place for dogs. Imagine only being 60cm tall, living amongst giants who communicate in a completely different way to you. You may not see another of your own species for days on end and when you do, it’s hard to know whether to jump for joy or give in to your crippling shyness.
Some dogs are naturally confident – just as some humans are very sociable. Other dogs need a little help. Most dogs are happy with some things but need a bit of a boost with others. In my experience, the sooner you begin to socialise your puppy, the easier life will be for the both of you.
How to “do” puppy socialisation
Socialisation involves introducing your new to as many new experiences as you can in the first few months of his life. Some of them will be easy for him, some will worry him. Your job is to desensitise him to the things he’s uncomfortable with. And that means being gentle and patient and letting him set the pace.
Learn to read your pup’s body language
A dog doesn’t have the words to tell you how he’s feeling. Instead he uses body language. My training in the Police Force and with the IMDT helps me to recognize subtle signs of stress in a dog. The way he holds his tail, the set of his ears, his stance and the direction of his gaze all tell me whether he is feeling confident, wary, afraid or terrified.
At puppy training classes, I can help you to interpret your dog’s body language so that you can predict and prevent unwanted behaviour. Unwanted behaviour at this stage includes things like
Puppy socialisation is not just about confidence, it’s about good manners. With dogs and with people.
Introducing new experiences
Your pup needs to understand that just because he hasn’t heard, seen, smelt or experienced something before, doesn’t mean that it’s a threat to him.
You won’t be able to let your puppy walk down the street until he has had all of his vaccinations. But you can take new experiences to him.
Let him hear the washing machine, the TV, the radio, children playing, the shower running, the doorbell – all of those household sounds that we all take for granted. This is especially important if your puppy spent his first few weeks in an outdoor kennel.
Let him walk on as many different surfaces as you can. Grass, puddles, gravel, soil, carpets, wood, tiles etc. Encourage him to explore the differences between springy carpet and slippery stone and learn that he is safe. Even if he does have to adapt his gait slightly. Teach him to tackle steps and very small jumps. (keep the height low – puppies have very delicate bones so he mustn’t fall or injure himself when climbing and jumping)
Dogs interpret their world mainly through their noses. So let your puppy exercise his nose as much as he can. Give him plenty of opportunities and time to sniff round the house and garden, round friends, family and toys. Let him noodle around and explore the car too. It’s important that he’s comfortable and confident when travelling. Even if he won’t be taking regular road trips, at some stage he will need to go to the vets.
Some puppies are quite shy when it comes to meeting new people. Especially the kind of people who (quite understandably) want to kiss, cuddle and generally overwhelm the poor little thing. However, in the course of the dog’s lifetime he’s going to meet a lot of folks. Old ones, young ones, noisy ones, quiet ones, dog lovers and the ones who are not so keen on fur babies.
If your puppy seems reluctant to talk to folks, don’t force him. Quite often if he’s allowed to sit back and observe for a while, he’ll approach in his own time. It’s vital though that he does get plenty of practice at meeting people. Even if that means you training your visitors in how to help you socialise him.
Until your puppy has been fully vaccinated you must be VERY careful about him meeting other dogs. Young puppies have immature immune systems and are vulnerable to diseases, some of which can be fatal. If you already have dogs in the family, make sure their vaccinations are up to date before little one arrives and then introduce the newcomer carefully. Be sure to supervise meetings closely.
Getting out and about
As soon as the vet gives you the all clear, take puppy out and about to as many places as possible. Let him hear traffic noises, chattering people, birds singing.
You may have to carry the puppy for some of the time. It will help him feel secure and you will be able to monitor his reactions. Plus, young pups should never be over- exercised.
If the puppy gets very stressed, or overexcited take him out of the situation and come back another day. Next time, be prepared to make a more gradual introduction to whatever triggered that reaction.
Your aim is to let your puppy experience as many things as possible as safely as possible. You also need to find out what worries him so that you can work with him to overcome his fears.
Training your puppy to behave well in public
Dogs don’t automatically know how to behave in any given situation. It’s our job to teach them and here is a good example.
I don’t know about you, but I’m someone who enjoys taking my dog for a walk and then calling into a pub or a coffee shop for something to eat afterwards. It’s a great way to explore the local area, especially whilst on holiday.
I also like being able to take the dog with me when I visit friends and know that we’ll both be welcomed back again.
What I don’t want to happen though, is for me sit down and relax only to have my dog try to introduce himself to everyone else in the establishment and stick his nose in their snacks. While I’m relaxing, I want my furry friend to sit or lie calmly by my feet and just chill.
One of the things we teach at Premier Dog Training’s puppy classes, is how to settle your dog onto his own mat. It’s a bit like a comfort blanket for a toddler. When the dog has his own blanket, he feels safe he knows just how he has to behave.
We also help you to overcome problems with meeting other dogs, jumping up at people, mouthing and facing new experiences. Puppy classes are not just about sit and stay. They’re about getting off on the right paw with confidence, good manners, and the potential of a great life for the dog and his human family.
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