Categories
Socialisation

Calmness and Expectations

Socialising your puppy appropriately

Whenever socialising with other dogs, I urge you to include calmness as a major part of the play date. Allowing dogs to free play continuously isn’t going to help them learn how to communicate with other dogs (it often does the opposite) or help you in the long run.

Remember, you’re trying to set expectations for your puppy and build habits of how you want them to be and interact when older. None of us want the dog that runs up to all other dogs, jumps on them, bites their ears, gets over aroused and then won’t leave them alone. Yet one problem that I get called into a lot is attention outside. Dogs running off to meet other dogs and ignoring their recall, dogs that drag you on lead to meet others, dogs that jump all over strangers and dogs that generally do not listen outside. Now is your time to prevent your puppy learning and practicing all of that. 

We spend a lot of time setting the wrong expectations for our puppies. We should be raising puppies to expect a rough 1:3 ratio. Roughly, 1 distraction you ignore and pass by, 1 you can quickly engage with (eg sniff) and move on, 1 you can have a longer interaction with (eg offlead play). This reflects much more of what we expect from them as adults.

Remember, teaching your puppy that they don’t always get to say hello is a huge part of appropriate socialisation.  So remember to teach your puppy how to mooch calmly, how to sniff, how to say hello calmly when other dogs are present and equally how to ignore and walk on by,  this is the true meaning of socialisation.

Categories
Socialisation

Should you allow dogs to tell your puppy off?

Popular but often damaging advice

Let them get on with it? He’ll soon learn! It’s ok he needs to know he can’t do that!

Sound familiar? Most advice you get told about in regards to puppy interactions is simply allowing them to get on with it. This advice however can be incredibly detrimental longer term. When puppies are beginning to learn about what is and isn’t appropriate we need to be on hand to help guide them when needed. While it is perfectly ok for an older, skilled dog to help our puppies learn what is and is not acceptable, we need to know when to step in for the benefit of both parties. We should not be allowing older dogs to repeatedly tell our puppies off and we should not be setting our puppies up to fail.

We should be:

  1. Picking our puppies play friends well
  2. Stepping in when we need to

Remember that time when you were trying to learn a new skill? I bet you had someone with you patiently guiding you through, letting you know openly when you made a mistake, but helped you fix it so that you could do it better next time? Now imagine if that person just kept yelling at you over and over that every move you made was wrong. Bet that wouldn’t make you feel so good? I bet that would put you off continuing to learn wouldn’t it? Interactions are a skill our puppies need to learn and having good teachers will always be beneficial; having bad teachers will only cause more problems.

Picking our puppies play friends allows us to select older dogs that are, at a minimum, tolerant of puppies. Dogs that can help our puppies learn what is appropriate and calmly let them know ‘thats not it mate’ when they get it wrong, are hugely beneficial. Allowing our puppies to repeatedly play with dogs that dislike puppies, have no tolerance of puppies or are likely to shout excessively at our puppy when they step out of turn is a bad idea. Interactions with these dogs are only likely to knock our puppies confidence and give them a complex around other dogs.

Stepping in when things aren’t going so well will allow your puppy to not practice the unwanted behaviour. It also prevents other dogs having to tell your puppy off which is exhausting, stressful and not fair on them either. It wasn’t their choice to get a puppy, don’t make it their responsibility to raise them.

All in all there is a big difference between ‘watch what you’re doing their kid’ and ‘GET GONE NOW’. Allowing puppies to have conversations with dogs about what is and isn’t appropriate will always be what I recommend but as an owner we need to not allow it to go too far that it sets them up for future failure and puts other dogs under unnecessary stress.

Categories
Socialisation

Socialisation

More than just a play in the park

What happens to puppies during the socialisation period shapes what kinds of dogs they grow up to be.This period starts at around 3 weeks of age and ends at around 12 weeks (contrary to popular advice of 12-16 weeks) and is the time when primary socialisation normally takes place. During this time it is easiest for a dog to establish relationships with humans and other species, learn about social behaviour and confidence in the environment around them. They also begin to develop problem solving abilities, physical coordination, bite inhibition and can begin to form associations. The development of a puppy during this stage will depend on the complexity of the environment around them and whether or not exposure to novel things is taking place. Besides being a time for development of social relationships, this period is also a time of extreme sensitivity and psychological stress. By 12 weeks sociability begins to decrease and puppies may become increasingly fearful to novelty. This stage therefore needs to be handled with care.

“Socialisation is the learning process that a puppy must undergo in order to learn key life skills to ensure that it is happy and confident in its environment, and can communicate effectively within its social group”

Socialisation should include (but not restricted to):

☑️Handling

☑️Other animals

☑️People of varying shapes, sizes and abilities

☑️Sounds

☑️Surfaces

☑️Novel objects

☑️Novel places

☑️Learning how to cope with change

☑️Learning how to cope with being alone

☑️Learning how to handle situations of unease

During socialisation we shouldn’t be dragging puppies or luring them with food into any situation. We should be allowing them to make decisions without pressure. Food lures can either risk tarnishing food (creating a negative association with it) or startling a puppy when they realise after receiving the food that they are somewhere they would rather not be. Dragging teaches puppy they have no choice and that subtle ‘id rather not’ behaviours are ignored, often leading to more obvious behaviours such as barking or growling being used to get their point across. Just watching from a distance is as good as getting up close and personal. Protect your puppy’s confidence. Don’t put them in situations that you know will be scary for them.

When it comes to dog play lots of free for all puppy play (often found at puppy parties) will only encourage puppy play which is often rude and excessive. If your dog is playing inappropriately, don’t wait for another dog to tell them off. Remove them from the situation and help them learn what is more appropriate. Socialise with older dogs that already know the rules that can be patient with your puppy and can help appropriately guide them.

Habituation to the things around them is a huge part of socialisation. While we would like to create a good association, there are some things in the environment we do not need to socialise to, we simply want them to ignore them e.g. hoover, livestock, traffic.If you miss this and allow your puppy to say hello to everything they pass, this is the expectation you will be setting for your puppy which will become difficult to manage when older. This can be done via simply watching and not doing anything or engaging in different activities. For example, You don’t need to reward your puppy every time you see a car. You could run the risk of your puppy reacting (this can be simply acknowledging) every car that goes past. Simply give your puppy enough space from these initially so that they are no big deal. “Some things are just apart of the furniture”

 What if something bad happens?

Don’t panic!

During socialisation, its almost always not going to go perfectly- whether its the offlead dog that jumps on your puppy, the car that backfires as it drives past, the firework left off at 3pm in the afternoon or the child with the heavy hand, something at sometime may not go to plan.

Socialisation is about creating a library of really good experiences so that when puppies come into contact with a not so nice experience, it isn’t a problem. Puppies that don’t have a large library will find this more difficult than others as their experience becomes 50% good experiences and 50% bad. We want our puppies to become resilient and for that sometimes they also need to see that life isn’t always rosey. I don’t mean for one moment, that you need to create bad experiences, please dont, but when they do happen, you should have enough to full back on that your puppy can file that book, brush it off and carry on. So your aim? To ensure your puppy has enough good quality experiences to build an awesome library!