Socialising Your Dog
Posted at 04:31h
An important aspect of a dog’s development is their ability to interact with other dogs, pets, people, places and new (sometimes unfamiliar) experiences in a positive manner. New dog owners might be unaware that the best time to socialise a dog is in its early puppy stages, roughly between three and fourteen weeks of age. However, it isn’t always possible for us to fully expose our puppies in this period, and measures must be taken when the dog has matured. Whether you adopted an adult dog or your dog had an isolated upbringing, it isn’t too late and highly important to socialise them, whatever their age.
Some risks of NOT socialising a dog:
- General fearfulness – Dogs who are under-socialised may exhibit unnecessary signs of fear or react timidly to unfamiliar stimuli. Loud noises, new people, animals, or unfamiliar places are likely to trigger anxiety in dogs. Like humans, stress affects dogs negatively, and effective socialisation is the only natural solution to the problem.
- Aggression – Triggers to this behaviour are generally similar to those mentioned above. It may even be fear-based aggression due to a lack of coping skills learnt during the socialisation phase. It can also be caused due to a dependence on the owner and familiar surroundings, reacting negatively to new encounters.
- Uncomfortable around dogs – One of the most rewarding times of being a pet owner is watching your dog playing with and enjoying the company of other dogs. An under- socialised pet will act uncomfortably/nervous/aggressive around other dogs due to the lack of communication skills required to deal with these situations.
It’s not too late!
Don’t throw in the towel yet. If your dog displays any of the above behaviours, it’s for a reason, but it’s not permanent. A well thought out plan (that you stick to) can reverse many anxieties your dog has. Here’s some helpful tips:
- Write a checklist – List all your dog’s demons. Understanding the problem goes a long way to solving it.
- Walk your dog daily – Start off going to a secluded area with low level stimuli where the dog can feel comfortable. Limit walks to a short period and slowly build as you and your dog begin to feel more confident. Exercise can have a calming effect on dogs as it eradicates any pent-up energy.
- Introduce them to new dogs – Whether they are friend’s pets or dogs met on a walk, it is vital they learn how to react to fellow canines. If they react negatively to an encounter, avoid yelling and pulling hard on the leash as this can further distress your pet. Stay calm and assert control by providing a distraction to the situation. Like walking, it is a method of mutual understanding and being able to recognise when to take the next step in the socialisation process.
- Positive treat reinforcement – Lots of treats and rewards and praise when your dog does something positive!
- Be optimistic and stick to it! – Socialising a dog is a case-by- case scenario and can be hard work. However, dealing with your dog’s anxiety or aggression can be a positive, rewarding process for both you and your dog. To see any positive results, it MUST be an everyday activity. Enjoy the extra time you get to spend with your furry friend and most importantly .. .