How can you socialise your puppy to ensure that they love you but are friendly enough so that your puppy doesn’t become a total embarrassment when you take them anywhere as they grow up?
Most people want a dog who loves all people and doesn’t bark or growl at friends or when they’re out and about on walks. No one wants to have an aggressive dog that they can’t control. There are typically two opinions on how to socialise a puppy (in this article we will mainly discuss socialising your puppy with other people, but the same principles apply to socialising your puppy to other dogs).
Common Puppy Socialisation Philosophies
The first is that your puppy needs to meet and play with as many people and dogs as possible before 16 weeks (this is usually the end of his socialization period). This is the more traditional method of socialisation and the one recommended by many vets.
The second is that your puppy needs to think that you are the only thing that matters in his life. You’re encouraged to get and keep your puppy focussed on you and to not introduce it to many people. They’re treated as distractions that you need to work through. This is becoming increasingly common and is often referred to as ‘neutralization’. This way of socialisation is common in the sports world.
What’s the Fall Out?
The first scenario is far more common. This creates a highly social puppy with strangers, and can often result in an extremely distractible, hard to train dog when it goes right. When it goes wrong, you can end up with a puppy that is scared of people, because either your puppy was slightly nervous to start and was forced to interact with a person or dog that they found scary.
The second scenario creates a dog that is neutral to everything and only wants to interact with its owner. This makes training much easier, but it can result in a dog that doesn’t cope well with social situations involving other people or dogs.
Which One is Best?
Which one is right? Well, it depends on the dog. Both can be well suited to some dogs, but the best results are achieved by formatting a customized socialization plan for your individual puppy that falls between those two extremes. To find out more about this, check out the SolutionK9 Puppy Primary School Online Class or if you’re in Taranaki you can join the SolutionK9 Puppy class starting January 2018 (contact Luzelle for more details)! But for now, we’re going to talk about what the goals of socialization should be:
- A dog that is comfortable interacting with people in regular, everyday situations.
- A dog that is comfortable interacting with a wide range of people, including children, the elderly and disabled.
- A dog that, unless told otherwise, will automatically ignore strangers in favour of their owner.
In a Nutshell
The ideal dog is one that values his owner more than other people, but is still sociable. Achieving this may seem like an intensive process, but if we slack on socialization and our dog develops problems, those problems will take a heck of a lot more work to fix.
An ounce of prevention is worth it. Most puppy classes run until the puppies hit 16 weeks of age. A lot of books and resources recommend that the majority of socialization happen before that point. But what a lot of people don’t recognize is that socialization really shouldn’t stop until the dog hits maturity, if at all. Just because a dog hits the end of their critical socialization period around 16 weeks, doesn’t mean that they cease learning social skills or making positive and negative associations with the world around them.
Where does Obedience Training Fit In?
Socialization should be a primary focus – much more so than obedience training – for at least 6 months and beyond while your puppy goes through developmental stages and fear periods. A dog can always learn to sit, down and heel, but they can’t necessarily learn the social skills needed to fit into today’s society.
Jane Adams is an exceptionally talented dog trainer based in Australia. She has a wealth of experience and knowledge about how to help dogs and we are honoured that she has agreed to share this blog post with you guys.