Socialisation and Habituation

The Definition of Socialisation

“It is the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society”

The Definition of Habituation

“The diminishing of an innate response to a frequently repeated stimulus”

Why is socialisation and habituation so important for our puppies?

We want our puppies to behave well in social situations

  1. When meeting people
  2. When meeting other puppies and dogs
  3. Learning how to behave at home and when out and about in public.

If a puppy isn’t socialised correctly from a young age this will impact them throughout their lives. They can end up barking at people, animals, vehicles and objects. Putting your puppy into a heightened state of arousal and they could become very stressed. 

By introducing puppies to people correctly. Seeing people from a distance learning not to get over excited and to be calm. Giving your puppies the opportunity to make their own choice about if they want to say hello to someone is ideal. The people meeting your puppy should be calm and not over excite the puppy.

Socialisation is also taking your puppy to new places and experiencing new things. 

If you have other animals at home whether it is another dog, a cat, a hamster or a horse your puppy needs to be socialised with these animals correctly so they are able to behave in a way that is acceptable. If you have an older dog don’t allow your puppy to jump all over the older dog and leave the older dog to tell your puppy off. That just puts your older dog in a difficult situation and it could be harmful for your puppy. Introductions need to be slow and steady and the puppy needs to learn how to behave around the older dog. 

If you walk in the countryside regularly and your puppy is going to be exposed to horses or livestock frequently you will need to habituate your puppy to these animals so they learn how to be calm and not react in a negative way. Exposure is the key word. A positive exposure is essential for your pup. If they have a negative encounter it could potentially impact them for the duration of their life. Use treats with your pup when you are introducing your pup to new experiences to make things a little easier for them so they learn to have a positive association.

There is a horse that is often in the field next door to our garden. Pumpkin acknowledged the horse was there today as the horse was trotting in the field. She stopped and watched it. The above video is showing how I helped Pumpkin to relax around the horse. It isn’t a case of one and done. This exercise will need to be repeated often in order for her to no longer have any response to the horse being there. This is being built into her every day habituation. Pumpkin wont be socialised with the horse as we don’t own it and I don’t need her to become best buddies with the horse but she will learn not to react when she sees the horse in the field.

You will start to get an idea about your puppy’s body language. When Pumpkins ears are forward she is alert, and happy. If her ears go back she is a little worried. If her tail is down low she is a bit worried and uncertain if it is up high she is on high alert. If you notice in the video her tail is over her back and is floppy so she is relaxed If she is really uncertain if something scares her she could flee – flight mode. By using a really tasty treat. In the video I am using a tube of cream cheese so she can lick which helps to calm her. 

When you sign up to our socialisation class we will talk through the process for how to habituate and socialise puppies correctly to ensure they are calm happy puppies.