The Importance of Dog Socialisation
What’s So Important About Dog Socialisation?
Have you ever noticed that dogs who live on farms are quite cool and collected around horses, cows, and loud farm equipment?
Have you ever noticed that dogs who live in busy urban areas are also quite calm – around strange people, unfamiliar dogs, cars, buses and construction sites?
And have you ever noticed that dogs who live in suburban areas in homes with large fenced gardens are often difficult to walk, bark at strangers a lot, and have trouble getting along with other dogs?
If you have, then you already understand socialisation: When a dog is exposed to some thing regularly from a young age, he is far less prone to growling, snapping, barking, lunging, jumping or even looking at that thing later in life.
Your task in the proactive socialisation of your dog should divide that “thing” into
1) a wide variety of other dogs
2) a wide variety of humans
It makes sense when you think about it. Even we humans show varying signs of discomfort or inability to function when we’re near something or someone very unfamiliar. And please note that our farm dog will very likely NOT be calm in the city, and our city dog will very likely NOT be calm around horses and tractors.
No matter where you live and no matter what your dog’s breed or mix, the most important component of your dog’s overall behavioural development is early, regular, proactive socialisation to other dogs and to as many different humans as you can find. As soon as they’ve had their shots, young pups are far more open than older dogs to meeting strange dogs and people.
As a matter of fact, the window of opportunity starts to close when the pup approaches 8 months of age, and continues to close until it’s pretty well gone at age 12-24 months. So with an adult dog, it’s important that you enlist help from an experienced dog socialisation expert who can help you read your dog’s discomfort signals and conduct more supervised, gradual socialisation to avoid any problem.
It’s particularly important to let your dog or pup meet children of all ages. Let him play with children, and get him around adolescents as much as you possibly can. – Obviously this would be need to be under strict supervision.
It will make walks and running errands far easier, because he’ll be less distracted by the unfamiliar.
It will make obedience training far easier, because he’ll be able to focus on the task at hand.
You won’t have to separate him when entertaining guests, or if children come to play.
You won’t have to worry when a strange dog wants to meet him.
You won’t have to hold him back when a delivery man is at the door.
When a young puppy meets your cousin’s puppy, he immediately stores this information in his permanent memory bank as “Small gold dogs who smell a lot like me = No Threat, Good Fun.” If he meets and plays a bit with your neighbour’s goofy Labrador, an additional imprint is stored: “Two year old large black dogs = No Threat, Some Fun.”
It’s the same with people. When a pup is allowed to sniff a toddler (and hopefully is also given a treat by you or the toddler), the pup remembers “Little nappy-smelling human = No Threat”. When he’s allowed to approach a disabled person in a wheelchair, who, to encourage him, may be dropping tasty treats on the ground for the pup, the pup imprints “Large medicinal-smelling man in shiny strangely-moving chair = No Threat, Good Treats”.
You get the idea. The more of these imprints your dog has, the calmer he will be, because his brain will be filled with non-threatening experiences around a wide variety of beings.
Doggy day care run by experienced professionals is an excellent way to socialise your dog to other dogs, but you should also take your dog out on daily walks around your own neighbourhood. Hire a daily dog walker to do it if you don’t have the time. Include your dog in as many human activities as possible, at home or away. You can even bring your pup to a shopping centre and allow the passers-by to offer him treats you supply. If possible, set up playtimes with other dogs, and bring your dog in the car on errands when it’s not too hot or cold outside. These ideas may sound ridiculous to some, but for many a suburbanite dog trapped in a lonely Garden of Eden, they’re quite crucial.
If your dog is older, shy, or otherwise apprehensive, allow him to approach at his own speed. When meeting humans, giving him tiny treats for encouragement is a good thing. (Skip the treats when he’s meeting other dogs to avoid any competition.) And although dogs need to meet and learn a variety of personalities, never try to socialise your dog to any dog you know for certain has bitten or loudly aggressed at you or other dogs.
Whatever activity you want your dog to be calm in, get him exposed to it early on, and frequently. You’ll be so glad that you did!
Woof Doggy Day Care are specialists in taking care of your dog. For all your dog walking needs, why not call us today.