You will hear the word ‘socialisation’ often spoken by dog owners, enthusiasts, and professionals alike, but what does it really mean?
When raising a puppy you might hear the word repeated often without any true appreciation or understanding of its significance. For a long time now we have been told that we must socialise our puppies at the earliest opportunity and introduce them to all other dogs so that they might become tolerant of all dogs. This in part is true, but this approach does not explain socialisation in its truest sense or properly suggest how such socialisation should take place.
Mismanaged interactions may have negative consequences and lead to the development of behavioural problems later in life, whilst a lack of early socialisation can equally bring about similar complex problems.
How we define dog socialisation at TWOTD?
The Way of the Dog holds the view that socialisation is the purposeful act of familiarising puppies and dogs to the environment in which they live, occupy, or visit so that the animal acts in a way that is considered acceptable.
It is important that dogs become familiar with sensations, actions, objects, and living things within a variety of different environments or circumstances. Failure to introduce the dog to such things may lead to the dog demonstrating a reluctance to approach or accept unfamiliar situations and develop ways to avoid or escape them; this might include strategies that involve aggression.
The primary socialisation period for a young dog is considered to be from 3 – 12 weeks old, and is the most important period of social development. This is why it is absolutely essential to choose very carefully where you obtain your puppy. A reputable and ethical breeder will likely commence socialisation as soon as the 3 week point is reached.
Puppy socialisation by TWOTD
If a puppy is not correctly socialised during the early sensitive periods there is a possibility that a dog will never adjust to or accept novel events later in life. It is therefore essential that time and effort is taken to appropriately socialise a puppy to as many events as possible. The Way of the Dog takes this role very seriously and delivers bespoke puppy development courses that focus on properly managed socialisation whilst developing confidence and shaping character.
- Socialisation should always be carefully managed and not delivered randomly or without any consideration to how a particular dog may react.
- Dogs can be bold or cautious, weak or strong; they may dive in to a situation without hesitation or demonstrate much reluctance, they are all very different even at such an early stage.
- Puppies should always be carefully introduced to other puppies and caution should always be exercised when introducing them to adult dogs.
- Enrolling a puppy in a group puppy class is not always the best approach to socialisation as a mismanaged class can be responsible for the development of fearful or aggressive temperaments if the puppy is subjected to negative experiences.
Commit to thorough socialisation of your dog
Social maturity and development continues through to the 18 – 24 month point depending upon the individual dog. It is possible that a dog can become unusually sensitive to any event or circumstance during this period. Puppies considered to be socialised during their early months may suddenly develop what seem like irrational fears towards events that at one time caused them no concern. Therefore, socialisation should always be carefully managed and maintained during the first year of a dog’s life and owners should consider sustaining such approaches beyond until a dog is considered to be a well-adjusted adult.