If you have a dog or you’re thinking about getting a dog then you’ve probably heard the term “socialisation.” We humans may socialise by having a dinner party or going out together to see a film, but that’s not quite what’s meant by the term for dogs. So, what is socialisation and why is it important for your dog?
Think of it this way: Your dog has a canine mother and siblings. They teach him how to be a dog in the weeks they spend together. He learns to play, he practices learning to hunt and attack, he learns to eat solid foods and so forth. But when your puppy comes to you he (or she) really knows very little about how to get along in the human world. It’s up to you to teach him the things he needs to know for living in our world. Some things are rules, like house training, don’t nip people, don’t chew on the furniture or your shoes. But your puppy needs to learn other things, too. He needs to learn self-confidence. He needs to learn that humans are friendly. He needs to learn that he shouldn’t chase cats! All of these things your puppy needs to learn fall under the category of socialisation.
You can teach your puppy socialisation starting as soon as you bring him home. You can have family and friends pet your puppy when they visit. Let them give your puppy treats and encourage him to be friendly and outgoing. If he seems to be afraid of anyone you should show him that there’s nothing to fear. Instead of petting and soothing a scared puppy you should try to build his confidence. Show him that the person is your friend and you like them. Encourage the puppy to be petted and take a treat.
You can continue this lesson after your puppy starts getting his vaccinations and it’s safe for him to go out in public. Take him places where dogs are welcome. Encourage friendly strangers to pet your puppy and give him treats. Show your puppy that you like these people and that petting is a good thing.
You can let your puppy meet other friendly dogs, as long as they’re leashed. Make sure you don’t allow your puppy to be rambunctious or jump in another dog’s face, however. Keep your puppy leashed and maintain a friendly distance to other dogs, but do allow him to meet other dogs so he will see how he’s supposed to behave when meeting other dogs. Learning this lesson as a puppy can prevent dog-dog aggression as an adult.
You can also take your puppy to parks and places where dogs are allowed. Allow him to see new things, even if they might startle him. He may see balloons floating, kids running, a squirrel jump out of the bushes, or hear a vehicle backfire. Your job is to instill confidence in your puppy. Remember not to be too soothing. You should be cheery and happy. Show your puppy that there’s nothing to be frightened about on these excursions.
If you have an adolescent dog or even an adult dog who needs socialisation, you can use these same tips. They work with older dogs just as they do with puppies. You may have to be patient with your dog since he may need to unlearn some behaviors he’s already learned, but you can socialise a grown dog. If he’s already afraid of some things, find out what he’s afraid of and work on slowly building his confidence. But don’t ever force him to do things that frighten him. Work only in very small steps.
Of course, it’s easier to socialise a puppy who has never been frightened of anything.
Socialisation is a very important part of raising and training your dog. Try these suggestions and your puppy should grow into a happy, confident adult dog.