Puppy Training and Socialisation
How to get it right
Puppies learn faster than they get credit for. From when they are born to around seventeen weeks of age, a puppy's ability to socialise and soak up new information is at its peak and very critical in shaping how they perceive and interact with the world.
From the moment you pick your puppy from the breeder, you have started a training process that will determine your dog's personality. Of course, your breeder started some socialisation training, but now, as the parent, it's your responsibility to introduce your puppy to as many new experiences, people, objects, and other pets as possible. So, what's the right way to socialise a puppy?
What's Socialisation and why you should do it.
Socialisation sounds like what it is – getting used to new experiences. The idea behind socialisation is helping your puppy develop a healthy interaction with its environment: the sound of cars, vacuum cleaners; sights; and smell.
Having a dog that is confident and open to new experiences helps the dog develop into a better companion, reduces its chances of ending up in a shelter, and in the long run may even save his life.
How to socialise your Puppy
I made mention earlier that your breeder had started the socialisation process by introducing him to wet grass and floors, metal and concrete floors, and allowing safe exploration. Now it's your turn to continue what the breeder started –and go over what they missed.
Because your puppy hasn't received all its vaccinations, it is important you talk to your vet about introducing new people and places. And, since your puppy is still vulnerable to many diseases, you really need to screen the places you visit and avoid strange dogs at all cost.
What experiences count?
To human babies and puppies, the world is a new and strange place. Your job as its parent is to come up with as many different –safe- experiences it can learn from. Here are some examples:
- Sounds from: Cars, busy streets, vacuum cleaners, doorbell, dishwashers, voices, hair dryer, etc.
- All types of people: with beards, wheelchairs, walkers; wearing sunglasses, gloves, hats, costumes, uniforms; children and adults; etc.
- Sight: bicycles, skateboard, umbrella, brooms, elevators and escalators, toys, balls, etc.
- Surfaces: glass, metal, concrete, rugs,
- Handling: A child pulling his hair, being picked up/examined, nail clipping, collar grab, etc.
You can expand this list as much as you want to; when in doubt, always ask a vet or trainer.
Be supportive and positive
Dogs are able to pick up on the emotions of people around them, so when introducing your puppy to any new experience stay as calm as possible and do not force it. Like in our previous article where walked you through introducing a crate, the steps are pretty similar. You want your dog to associate the new experience with a pleasant feeling, so offer an appropriate amount of treats and encouragement.
There's a debate whether comforting your dog when it is scared of new experience has negative effects or not; Behaviour experts say it does no harm to console, but it doesn't do any good to ignore, either.
Go slow and gentle with the new experiences
New experiences matter, but so does the pace it is introduced. Try as much as you can to make it easy on the puppy, too much too soon can make your pet withdraw into a shell.
The key is not to overload your puppy: If you want a puppy to get used being around people he's not familiar with, start with one regular face, then introduce one or two more; Or if you want to introduce your puppy to a new surface, do not just pick him up, walk to the surface, and drop him. Instead, use treats and toys, drop them on the surface and encourage him to approach.
When your puppy is comfortable with small amounts of stimuli, introduce something new, go public: Take him to your friend's place; introduce him to crowded streets; allow him tag along on your next visit to the pet store; and, a few days after he has received all his vaccination shots, you can take him to the dog park.
Other important socialisation experiences and training can be taught in a puppy class. Other than helping your pooch learn basic commands, puppy classes also expose him to other dogs and humans in a safe, friendly environment.
You should always pick classes run by a certified pet dog trainer who can guide your developing puppy to build healthy play skills, provide them only positive experiences, and also show you how to do the same.
All you have will ever have is now, so just do it
Seeing as we live in dog-friendly times it is now easier than ever to shape your puppy into a responsible canine-citizen, but the same modern time can derail our best intentions with huge demands on our time. One day you wake and your puppy is way past two years.
The best time to start was at six weeks – or preparing before you got a puppy,- the second best time is now.