Becoming a dog owner for the first time is an important stage in your life, so being able to enjoy all the things you love together will bring a huge amount of joy and satisfaction. Socialising your new puppy is essential to raising a happy and confident dog, and when done correctly it can set you up for a much more relaxed and enjoyable life for the both of you.
Experts agree that there is a window of time early in a dog’s life when socialisation should occur. This lasts from somewhere between three weeks until 12-16 weeks old. According to the Blue Cross, “By the time your dog reaches about 12 weeks of age, anything not yet encountered is approached with caution and trepidation.”
If you are bringing home your new family member at eight weeks, that means you only have around one month to lay down a strong foundation for your pup’s future. It is during this time that your dog will form positive (or negative) associations about people, places and the world. Neglecting to socialise your puppy or socialising him incorrectly could result in dog that is fearful, skittish or even aggressive.
*A note about vaccinations: This socialisation phase can be a challenging period for new owners because they need to get their puppy out into the world while they are not fully vaccinated. Experts including the Kennel Club agree that socialisation is too important to be ignored, especially given the rate of Euthanasia due to behavioural problems. There are a few safeguards you can put in place so you can strike a balance including: only letting your dog mix with other dogs you know to be healthy and 100% vaccinated, carrying your dog if you feel you are in area that could be an issue with disease, and inviting plenty of dog-loving friends over to your house.
To help get you started, here are our top 5 tips for successfully socialising your puppy:
- GO TO PUPPY CLASS
A puppy class is an excellent way to introduce you dog to other people and dogs in a safe and controlled environment, whilst also getting started with their basic training. Do some research and find a good local puppy class; go and meet the trainer and make sure you are comfortable with their training style. The trainer should lay down the ground rules regarding how the dogs can interact with each other during the class and should also equip you the basics of how to socialise your dog out in the world.
Feeding the right diet will also help with your dog’s trainability by providing an appropriate level of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid which supports brain development. Choosing a premium food like EUKANUBA that is specially tailored to your dog’s age, size and breed will set you up for success with training, socialisation and general development paving the way for a long, healthy and active life.
- MEET FOR PUPPY PLAYDATES
It’s vital that your dog meets other dogs during this socialisation period. Young dogs, old dogs, big dogs, small dogs and – the more positive encounters they have with different types of dogs, the more comfortable they will feel.
Check out your local parks and get a feel for the types and dogs and owners that visit. It’s important to understand the basics of doggy etiquette. If you don’t know the other dog, it’s always a good idea check with the other owner that it’s ok for your pup to approach – not all dogs will be thrilled with an excitable puppy jumping all over them, particularly older dogs who may be going blind or deaf.
These encounters will also be an important learning curve for your pup. They must understand to read other dogs and manage their own behaviour. The other dog may growl and warn them off. That should be a sign for your dog to back off. If they don’t, you may need to pull them back by the leash (try not to pick them up or physically intervene unless you feel your dog is really in danger). They will soon learn what is acceptable behaviour when they meet new dogs in the park and what is not.
- INTRODUCE YOU DOG LOTS OF PLACES & THINGS
Assess your lifestyle and think about all the things and places your dog will need to get used to. If you plan to take your dog with you around the city, on public transport (where permitted) in the car, into busy pubs and maybe even your workplace, they will need to become familiar with all these things from a very early age.
Take the time to introduce them to each of these things in a very calm and positive manner. A trip to a dog friendly pub is a great way to get your pup used to other people and dogs and there will be no shortage of people wanting cuddles! If you plan to take your dog to work, it’s advisable to start with a crate under your desk so they have a ‘safe space’ where they are out of harm’s way. As your dog becomes more familiar with this environment and knows the acceptable boundaries and behaviours, then you can offer more freedom.
Always have treats on hard and give plenty of praise when they have successfully navigated an important new situation in their world.
- GO COSMOPOLITAN!
It’s not uncommon for owners to complain that their dog reacts badly to certain types of people – young kids, tall people, men and even certain ethnic groups. Your dog needs to broaden their horizons from an early age. Get them used to all sorts of different people so they do not become fearless or aggressive as they move into adulthood. As with all socialisation, the aim is to create a positive association, never force your puppy to go to a certain person if they don’t want to, or to be picked up if they aren’t comfortable with it.
It might seem strange to include grooming as part of socialisation but this is also something your dog will have to used to, particularly if you have a dog with a high maintenance grooming routine. Washing, brushing and clipping, as well keeping claws at a healthy length will all be a new experience for your pup. Spend plenty of time handling and stroking your dog all over their head and body. Gently hold onto areas like his paws that dogs can be sensitive to, try to persevere until he slowly becomes more relaxed with it. Let him see the brush and get familiar with it before you start using it. Take it slow (don’t throw your dog straight into the tub!) and give plenty of praise and treats along the way.
*This post is sponsored by EUKANUBA