“One size does not fit at” True
“Every dog is different” Also true
“They have their own characters and instincts” True too.
Only so much of your dog’s ability is innate, in other words, what they are born with, what they now become is up to you. My family pack is comprised of a scent hound, a sight hound and a herding dog. All completely different but the one thing they have in common is they are sociable and know how to behave in a human environment.
Socialisation is a subject very dear to my heart. Whilst I am going to approach this from the point of view of having a new pup it applies equally to older dogs especially those from rescue centres who may not have been socialised as puppies.
The day I met Poppy, that fateful day when I was asked to foster her. When she crawled onto my lap on the floor of the SPA Carcassonne office and stole my heart, she was 3 months old and a very frightened little puppy. I will never know what happened to her but no pup should ever be that traumatised. Socialising her was of primary importance and as it was people who frightened her most I needed to expose her to as many as possible in a positive way. My friends, family and dog club members became willing guinea pigs but I also took her out and about to meet perfect strangers. She hasn’t completely overcome her fear and I still have to be vigilant but at almost 6 months olď she is now a confident young dog who can walk through a crowded market and settle beside me in a café.
Puppies by nature are generally friendly and curious. They learn by exploring the world around them, by smelling by tasting and touching, but mostly from their mother and by playing with their siblings and extended family. That, however, does not fit them for living in a human world so when we take on a puppy, or indeed any dog, it is up to us to teach it how to behave and survive in our environment.
The optimum age for socialising your new puppy is between 3 and 5-6 months of age. At 2 to 3 months they should have had their essential vaccinations and can be taken out and about. At 5-6 months the fear factor kicks in; this is basic survival instinct and anything unknown becomes something to be wary of. As you can see it is a very small window of opportunity!
What is socialisation
In simple terms, this is taking your pup out and about and exposing them to everyday life. To the market, a cafe, the school gates, along busy roads, where there are cyclists and joggers, to the duck pond or to meet the horses in the local farmer’s field. Making sure your dog says ‘hello to as many people and animals along the way as possible.The experiences your puppy has now will never be forgotten so positive encounters with people, including children, and other dogs/animals are very important and the time you consecrate to it will repay you many times over. Conversely, bad experiences now may be difficult to overcome in the future.
A dog that has not been socialised often has no idea how to behave when placed in a social situation. A young child who has never played with other children and who is suddenly taken to a playground, or sent to a nursery, will have no idea how to interact with others in their peer group. They may be frightened and run and hide or, through fear, may be aggressive in their attitude towards them. So it is with dogs and aggression through fear is the worst kind because it can be unpredictable. A frightened dog has only two options, flight or fight; if it feels trapped it will choose fight, often without warning.
If you have a dog school near you this is an excellent way to accustom your pup to other dogs and people in a safe environment. At a Puppy School you will be shown how to train your puppy effectively and without stress but even more important your little one will learn how to ‘play nicely’ with other puppies and to inhibit their bite. They will meet other dogs of varying shapes and sizes and other humans too, (also of varying shapes and sizes!), with glasses and hats, big coats and umbrellas. They will learn to walk on different surfaces, to go over jumps and small bridges and through tunnels. All these experiences will help ensure that they will become a well-rounded dog, friendly to humans and other dogs, and one that you can take anywhere, which ultimately is what most of us want.
Dos and don’ts
Always be very calm around your dog. Shouting is ineffective, they hear better than you, and it will only serve to excite or frighten.
Your body language is important, be relaxed and smile at your dog.*
Always praise good behaviour and ignore unwanted behaviour. To be rewarded your dog will repeat the desired behaviour and unwanted behaviour will gradually disappear.
Most importantly NEVER reassure a frightened dog! This goes against our nature, we instinctively want to protect and cuddle, but this is the worst thing you could do. Your dog will perceive the reassurance as there bring something to be worried about.
Don’t force your dog to confront something it is worried about, work around it at a safe distance until they feel comfortable enough to approach. If the problem is a person then It’s imperative to allow your dog to make the first move. **
*&** more on these subjects in another blog