Most people understand the concept of obedience training and they set out with the best of intentions with their new puppy.
But, whilst it is an important part of pup’s development, it isn’t actually your immediate priority. Socialisation is.
So, what is socialisation? In a nutshell, it is creating positive experiences so that pup feels safe and secure in different environments. This involves most of the senses…sight, sound, smell and touch. There is a short window of opportunity from three to 12 weeks of age to achieve the desired results, in order to have a happy and confident dog that is calm and comfortable in most surroundings.
Young puppies are naturally curious and they only build up fears as they grow older, so if you introduce them to as many everyday situations as early as possible, they’ll be far more confident and able to cope with new ones.
You can break it down into these main areas: animals, people, things and the environment.
When we talk about animals, we don’t just mean other dogs, although it’s best to introduce them to as many different dogs as possible. They need to know which ones they can and cannot approach. They need to learn the signals. But you may live around cats, farm animals, birds etc., so it depends on your lifestyle.
People come in all shapes and sizes and so spending time in the company of others from day one is a crucial part of socialisation. Our mannerisms and reactions are very individual, so pup needs to learn to feel comfortable around new people.
Talking of mannerisms, a big element of the socialisation process is handling. Get them used to you touching their paws, ears, eyes, mouth etc. daily. It will make it a lot simpler when you have to do give any kind of remedial treatment and for any future visits to the vet or groomer.
New environments can be very intimidating. So, take them to different places, allowing them to explore at their own pace. Your goal is to form positive experiences and not to overwhelm them, so create distance if your pup looks worried. Associating the experience with good things like play and treats can also help to build up their self-confidence in your world.
The bottom line is that socialisation benefits both you and your puppy. A well-socialised dog is less likely to display signs of fear or react in stressful or exciting situations. And dog walking will be a dream!
Happy Feet Dogs offers a range of specialised services that can support you in your puppy socialisation, including one-to-one training and group socialisation walks. If your young dog has already developed fears, we can help with behaviour modification consultations and individually tailored programmes. For more information, visit www.happyfeetdogs.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Diane Lowe
Diane Lowe has been living in the Algarve for 23 years. It’s not where she was born but it’s where she belongs. She is passionate about dogs, hiking and being out in nature.