You've probably been told how important it is to socialise your puppy before. It's one of those things experienced owners and behaviourists encourage new dog owners to do. Even so, we're going to reiterate it and hopefully teach you some new information along the way!
Puppy socialisation -- why is it important?
Introducing your puppy to other dogs and new people at a young age is one of the best things you can do to ensure that they grow up happy, well-adjusted and unafraid of new people and dogs. An unsocialised dog that hasn't been exposed to all the great stuff the world has to offer can grow up scared and, unfortunately, this can turn into aggression.
As we all know, old dogs aren't exactly renowned for being great with 'new tricks' and it can be really tough to get them to be sociable outside of puppyhood, so it really is important. It's not difficult to socialise your puppy, but it will take time, effort and personal discipline. We want to give you the advice you need to really get your pup to be social so that they can grow into a happy, friendly dog.
Start them young
As we've just mentioned, it's much easier to socialise a dog when they're young rather than when they start getting old. In the first few months of their life, your dog won't have any fears of the world around them, so they'll be really excited to meet just about anything and everything that's out there!
Of course, this is great news as an owner. It means that your puppy will lead the charge in going out and making friends, so make sure that you allow them to do this! Remember, from around three months of age, your puppy will exhibit signs of cautiousness around new things. That's exactly why you'll want to fit in as much positive socialisation as you can before then - you don't want them to be scared of their own shadow!
There is a word of warning when it comes to socialising your young puppy. While it is super important to get them out there when they're young, you need to make sure they aren't overwhelmed. Remember, everything they are seeing is brand new to them, so even if something isn't scary to other dogs, your pup might not be as brave. The best way to introduce your young puppy to the world is to take them socialising little and often, ideally at least once per day.
Get out there and explore
To really get your pup socialised, you really need to get out there. Even their favourite park gets boring after a couple of weeks of daily trips and you need to expose them to as many people, pets and environments as you can.
You should try your best to make sure that adults, children and elderly people of all genders meet your dog in their formative months so that they don't get surprised or confused as they grow older. If you live in the city, get your puppy out to the country, if you're in the country, take them downtown!
A less obvious environment to get your dog used to as a puppy is your home itself. Yes, it sounds obvious, but you really should make an effort to ensure that they are familiar with all the usual suspects: vacuum cleaner, washing machine, doorbell. Expose them to these noises and show them that there's nothing to be afraid of, not even the postman!
Finally, the vet. You'll need to take your puppy to the vet for their vaccinations as it is, but there's certainly no harm in taking them when they're a little younger. Your dog will be going to the vet throughout their life, so making sure that they're used to it when they're young is always a great idea.
Consider puppy classes
In many ways, puppy classes are to young dogs what kindergarten is to young humans. Your puppy will be meet other dogs of all shapes and sizes in a safe, comfortable environment. They'll learn crucial social skills and become accustomed to interacting with other dogs in a way that isn't aggressive or threatening.
Puppy classes often provide basic training to young pups, making them more obedient and responsive to your commands. This becomes increasingly important as they go through life - a well-trained dog is far less likely to get into dangerous situations.
It's also an excellent opportunity to get used to being around other people. While it's obviously of vital importance for your dog to learn how to be around other dogs, they're likely to spend more time around other people. You won't want your dog to be aggressive or timid when you're out for a walk and a friendly human comes to say hello.
Behaviours to look out for
We know we've spent this entire post talking about the importance of getting your dog out there, but everything has a limit. We all suffer from social burnouts occasionally and need some time alone, and the same goes for your four-legged friend.
Keep an eye out for your dog acting out of character; behaviours such as excessive panting, yawning, or the classic tail between the legs may point to your dog feeling overwhelmed. If you notice these behaviours, it may be time to take a break. There's also a chance that your dog has spotted something you haven't, such as a genuine threat from another dog, so pay attention to them much like you would a young child.
It's essential to keep pushing your dog's social boundaries, especially in the formative months of its life, but there is such a thing as 'too much'. Remember, little and often is key.
We hope this guide has been helpful and given you some ideas on how to socialise your puppy. Check out our blog for more tips on how to ensure your dog is as happy and healthy as can be. On the topic of health, take a look at our nutritious meals. Give your canine friend the best and build a Butternut box now.