Socialisation is a crucial part of a puppy’s early life.
It covers a broad spectrum of events. It isn’t just about puppies having play dates or having off lead play in a puppy class or at day care.
Socialisation is about getting your puppy accustomed to many different things and people that they will come across in every day life.
We’ll start with the interaction with other dogs.
Introductions should be controlled. Important things to consider if you are going to introduce your puppy to another puppy/puppies or other dogs:
The Environment – is the environment safe and secure? The area where the off lead play takes place should be open with nothing in the way.
The Introduction – this should be for a maximum of three seconds on lead so you can safely introduce to the other puppy or dog and call your puppy away. If it is done off lead you can’t stop the pups if they are about to start chasing each other.
If you know the owner of the puppy or dog that you are introducing your puppy this can help as you will have an understanding of how the other puppy or dog behaves.
If the other puppy or dog they are meeting is calm and the owner has a good recall then controlled off play can take place after some gentle introductions on lead. It is a good idea to have a lightweight line on your puppy so you have something you can take hold of if you need to stop the play if your recall doesn’t work.
Cut into the play to break it up every 5 to 10 seconds and don’t allow the play to last for longer than 1 – 2 minutes.
Size and age of puppies – If you would like your puppy to play with another puppy are they of a similar size and age? Some older puppies can be more confident than the younger puppies and this can create a difficult situation for the younger puppy, chasing and pouncing from the other more confident bolder puppy! It can lead to the less confident younger puppy being timid or even wary of other puppies and dogs. It can teach your puppy they need to bark at other dogs and that it is ok for them to go bounding over to another dog rather than staying under control with the owner. All free for all group play will have a negative effect teaching undesirable behaviours.
Arousal levels will increase. It can take a highly aroused puppy or dog up to 72 hours to come down from their high and back to a calm state. When they are in a heightened state of arousal they are unable to learn and be calm. It will lead to excessive barking, whining, panting and potential destruction through chewing. Your puppy will become very stressed.
This is why on lead introductions are crucial rather than a free for all play session.
Injuries – Puppies bones are very soft when they are young. Too much running around and high impact exercise can lead to joint and bone problems. It will also teach your puppy that it’s fine to run off to another puppy or dog when you are out and your pup is off lead. They will see the other puppy or dog as more fun than you. It is important for your puppy to have a really good relationship with you and the fun happens with you not just with other dogs or puppies.
Too many incidents happen on walks in public with other dogs running over to dogs or puppies on lead which can lead to fear and reactivity. Dogs and puppies are often on lead for a reason. It shouldn’t be a free for all. The phrase which you often hear from an owner as their dog is running out of control towards you “its ok my dog is friendly” doesn’t cut it. Before you know, more often than not there is an incident with one of the dogs being either attacked or the puppy or dog on lead is very fearful and becomes scared from having another dog run in their space.
We want our dogs to be well mannered and sociable and able to tolerate other puppies and dogs when you are out. It isn’t necessary for your dogs to have friends and play dates. The most important relationship is with you.
What is habituation?
Habituation is a crucial part of the socialisation phase. It is safely introducing your puppy to people, animals, items and noises that they will come across throughout their life.
This is extremely important for puppies development and should start with the breeder. Some of the things they should be introduced to before you collect your puppy:
- Gentle handling
- Noises and items around the home including: vacuum cleaner, other noisy equipment that can be used, washing machine, dishwasher, food mixers etc. They should be used when puppies have something to do and this should be done from a very young age.
- Introductions to other animals if there are any in the breeders homes, cats etc.
- Introductions to people. They should meet at least 100 people by the time they are 22 weeks of age.
The habituation your breeder has done in the home must continue when your puppy joins your family.
You will have up to 4 weeks where your puppy can’t be walked. You can still take them places so they can experience every day life, noises, traffic, people etc.
You can buy puppy carriers but you can use a back pack and carry it on your front with your puppy safely in it so they can have their head poking out so they can see the world go by. Ensure you have your puppy on a harness and lead. Take a puppy pad so they can use this if they need to relieve themselves. (this would be the only time I would encourage the use of puppy pads).
Use treats so there is a positive association with the new experiences. Either tiny pieces of cooked meat or a filled frozen Kong. (We have recipes for fillings, this will soon be available in our new recipe book)
This crucial development stage is from 4 weeks to 22 weeks of age. If you don’t do much with your puppy during this short time frame they will then find everything a lot more frightening.
Take things slowly with your puppy and if in doubt ask. I’m always happy to answer questions.