From the moment we collect our puppies, we’re told just how important socialisation is- but what does it really mean?
Some people believe socialisation to mean allowing your puppy to meet every dog and person that we pass in the street, but in reality it goes far beyond just making new friends. Socialisation involves gently exposing your puppy to new and novel experiences, to help them develop a positive association to things they may encounter in day to day life. When socialising your puppy, it’s important to consider all of their senses- smell, touch, sound, taste as well as what they can see! Often these other senses are overlooked, and can lead to your puppy growing up and being fearful in situations that we wish they wouldn’t be.
Now we understand what socialisation is, it’s important to consider the different variables that can affect our pup’s socialisation experience. What many owners don’t realise is that there can be both good and bad socialisation. Whilst we want our dogs to be sociable, confident, and feel enthusiastic about exploring this world and all it has to offer, we also want them to have good social skills and be able to read when a situation may not be quite so inviting. Inappropriate socialisation can lead to a dog that can’t read other dogs body language, and can appear pushy or put simply “doesn’t take no for an answer”. On the other hand, lack of socialisation or negative experiences can lead to your puppy developing fear or aggression issues among other complex behavioural disorders.
It is SO important that we get this right, so how do we do that? Short, positive trips out filled with choice and treats teaches your dog that they’re allowed to explore new things at their own time, with the support of mum or dad. New places, new people and new objects are paired with something fun like a couple of treats, a cuddle, play time or even just a good sniff! As our dogs owner and advocate, we have to be aware of their body language so we know when things may be getting too much. There are loads of fantastic illustrations you can find online that make reading our dogs easy peasy!
Besides other dogs and new people, there are a million other things that your dog may be exposed to during their life- so how do we prioritise? Close your eyes and envision life with your dog in the future… where might you go? If your looking to take your dog to collect the kids from school, look to getting them used to the sound of children screaming, people running round them and buggies or other strange novel objects moving around them. If you picture long walks and pub lunches, get them used to busy people-filled environments. If you’re wanting to take your dog to work with you consider introducing them to this environment in short, positive increments.
So now you’ve considered all the fun parts of your dog’s life, what about the not so fun? Our pups will have to make regular trips to the vets throughout their lives, so it’s critical that they are happy and confident spending time there, and even more so that they don’t mind being handled! Some of our dogs will also need to be taking regular trips to the groomers, so exposing our pup to nail clippers, scissors and fur clippers can help to make those trips easy and enjoyable- for both parties! Many groomers and vets are more than happy to welcome you and your pup during quiet times so they can just have a cuddle and a biscuit from the team, and this can really help your dog to feel optimistic about their trips.
How Can We Help?
If you’re struggling to get to grips with socialisation, check out our upcoming blogs, make the most of our FREE socialisation chart and check out our daycare service so your pup can enjoy some gentle and carefully supervised socialisation with other dogs.