Socialisation is just another way of talking about your dog learning how to be a dog. It’s a bit like raising a human child. Humans have to know certain things to get along in society – manners, how to meet new people, how to handle new experiences. Dogs need the same kind of training.
Mum starts the job of teaching a puppy how to behave, but once she’s out of the picture humans have to take over. If it’s done right, you end up with a polite dog that is easy to be around. If not, then you’re in for barking, torn-up furniture, pulling at the lead – even biting. But getting it right isn’t hard.
Socialisation occurs within the first 16 weeks of a dog’s life. During this time a puppy needs to encounter new sights, sounds and smells in order to learn what they mean and how to react to them. Every new experience is an education, whether it’s meeting another puppy or hearing a loud noise.
Dogs are social animals. They enjoy being around humans and around other dogs. Use this natural tendency to get the behaviour you want. Never punish a dog for not getting along with others. Just remove him from the situation. He’ll soon learn that if he doesn’t play nicely, he doesn’t get to play at all.
Stay calm. Your puppy looks to you for guidance. If you are nervous, your dog will be, too. If things go wrong in a play session with other dogs, don’t panic. Just take him for a walk to calm down. Walking is also a good way to burn off excess energy.
Play is excellent training. Use different types of toys. Handle your puppy during playtime, so he gets used to human contact.
Let him explore the house or garden on his own.
This will give him the confidence he needs to be a happy dog later on.
At first, introduce your puppy to strange dogs in a controlled environment, such as a dog park or care facility. Avoid distractions such as traffic, crowds or loud noises. After he’s used to meeting new dogs and new people, try taking walks in busier areas where he will meet even more dogs and their humans.
Michael Higgon is the owner and operator of Hop & Scotch Doggy Daycare located in Blackburn Victoria