Doggy Training

Want the best advice for puppy socialisation?

Want the best advice for socialisation?

Don’t wait until they have finished their vaccinations to get them outside! Seriously, the first 16 weeks are critical at building their confidence with new experiences. It’s really common for clients to bring their dogs along to classes as their first outing. Often those pups are completely overwhelmed by absolutely everything and often that first experience is really stressful for both pup and guardian. I am going to talk today about how we can introduce
positive solutions in a variety below. But first, let’s take a look at the definition of socialisation.

Socialisation is defined as;

In simple terms, "socialisation" refers to the learning process that a puppy must undergo to learn key life skills which ensure that they are happy and confident in their environment and can communicate effectively within their social group.

The biggest problem that puppies face is that they are not getting enough access to these things before the end of their vaccination process. Guardians are not aware of the many things that they can do to help this process. So if puppy comes home at eight weeks and isn’t given ample opportunity to experience such variety, the temptation to try and fit in everything
after the vaccinations have finished is high.

However, all is not lost there are hundreds of things you could do with them to introduce them to the world. It’s not just about people and dogs but sights, sounds, environment, experiences…

The list goes on.

Below I have listed seven things I think should be considered when socialising your puppy on top of interactions with other dogs and humans.
Things that you can do in the home;

Most people are aware of the need to prepare their puppies for fireworks and thunderstorms and this can be done fairly easily from a young age. There are loads of apps and YouTube videos that can be downloaded to help support this process and with patience and going at your puppies’ pace they can learn to be calm when they hear these noises. The trick is to play the sounds really low to begin with-almost inaudible. Whilst playing the sounds play with your puppy or train your puppy so that they start associating the noises with nice things. After a few days if your puppy doesn’t seem bothered you can increase the noise always checking to see if your puppy is happy. Ideally you are looking to train your puppy to have a neutral response to the sounds.

Fancy dress costumes and delivery drivers
Many puppies develop aversions to people wearing hats, high viz uniform, sunglasses and so on. The same can be said when meeting new people, particularly men. Take the time to introduce your puppy to these things in the home by wearing different items of clothing and if possible a variety of visitors to the home so that puppy learns that people come in all shapes and sizes. Take the time to introduce your puppy to delivery drivers, refuse workers
and postal workers. You want your puppy to enjoy the arrival of these things not learn that it’s a time to be fearful.

Desensitising to handling
Something that is commonly overlooked in the socialisation tick list is handling. Now you might be thinking well me puppy loves cuddles and that is brilliant. But are they used to having their paws, ears, teeth and all over body checked for lumps and bumps? If you are going to be using a groomer regularly its worth thinking about introducing a brush and a comb in to your daily process. Its important to introduce these things slowly. If you go in all
gung ho and raking their coat its likely they are not going to enjoy it. Start by just getting the brushes out and letting your pup sniff, reward for the sniff, give they paws a little stroke and then reward with a yummy treat after. Take everything really slowly and watch out for the signs that that are enjoying it or not. We want puppy to learn that hands mean good things and they are nothing to fear.

Outside the home;
Organise meets with older, calmer vaccinated dogs at home in the garden. There is always a temptation to want to meet up with other puppies. The problem is it’s very easy for these things to go wrong. Have a boisterous puppy? He learns that being the bully in the playground is ok. Have a timid one he’s likely to learn other dogs are scary. By being around older, calmer dogs, they learn to develop canine communication-what is acceptable and what is not. In all introductions we should be watching for signs that all participants are happy. If they are not it’s time to step in and give everyone some space.

Invest in a puppy sling or buggy-get them out!
Take them to the supermarket, pet store, vets, school run as many different places as possible. Keeping a puppy inside the four walls of your home until they have finished their vaccinations is no good for you or for puppy. By having them close to you in a sling you are able to safely reassure them. They can see the outside world and experience a wide variety of sights, sounds and smells. If using a buggy, ensure you spend time introducing your puppy to it and teaching them when they are in it, they need to be calm.

Regular short journeys in the car
The only experience of the car many puppies get is getting picked up to be bought home and vet or groomer visits. Is it any wonder that they start building a negative association with it? Start by just letting puppy have a good sniff around in the boot (if that’s where they are going to be) or by strapping them in to their harness on the back seat. Allow them to explore, once settled you could try turning the engine on for a few moments. After a couple of days being
stationary you might want to try a short journey round the block. Again, ensure that your puppy is feeling happy before moving to the next step.

My final top tip
Is to get a really good understanding of their body language. Are you able to understand what your puppy is communicating? A waggy tail doesn’t always mean a dog is happy. If they are tense and stiff with a slight wag, then it is unlikely your puppy is enjoying it. Are they turning their head away, showing the whites of their eyes, licking their lips? These are all signs that they feel uncomfortable with what is happening.

The world of socialisation is a huge one and its worth getting some expert help on this as relying only on interactions with other dogs and people is going to severely limit their chances of feeling comfortable in new and novel situations. Rome wasn’t built in a day but there is definitely a distinct need to do more than just introduce your new puppy to other dogs and humans.

If you have found this blog post useful you can down load our socialisation checklist here. It has over 105 ideas on things you can try with your new arrival and it’s in a handy checklist, so you can mark each experience off as you go.