It’s very exciting when bringing home a new puppy. There’s a lot to think about. Your neighbours, friends and family may advise you to socialise your puppy. This is good advice, however, you have to proceed with caution. Puppy socialisation is often misunderstood and if done incorrectly, you could do more harm than good! Angela Noakes from Positive Pooch Solutions explains when and how to socialise your puppy using positive methods.
A socialised dog is all the more an enjoyable companion. Your canine friend will be welcome in far more places, environments, and situations with people and other dogs if they are socialised and taught basic manners.
Why socialise your puppy using positive methods?
A well-socialised dog is comfortable in all situations in our modern daily life. The most important thing you can do for a puppy is to introduce them to the world in a positive way by using proven techniques that reinforce calm behaviour. Socialisation using positive methods will set your puppy up for success and she will develop into a well-adjusted dog for life.
You do this by providing your puppy with as many as possible positive experiences with people, new things and other animals while making sure you protect them from negative experiences at all times.
When to socialise your puppy?
The sooner you start the better! Behaviourists, veterinarians and trainers do not recommend waiting until your puppy has had all of its’ shots. You have a much greater chance of developing severe behaviour problems than your puppy getting sick. Your puppy should be protected from Parvo before going out and about in strange places.
The facts are that the risk of a dog being surrendered because of a behaviour problem is far greater than the risks of your pup contracting a disease.
You’ll need to avoid public places until your pup has been fully vaccinated but you can start to socialise your dog using positive methods from the time he is brought home. Carry them in your arms (or try a pack or baby carrier) or just sit in the car in a parking lot and allow him to get used to noises, smells and seeing lots of people, animals, vehicles, bikes, skateboarders etc. Feed your dog treats for being calm. Always start from a distance and if your dog is showing signs of being anxious, don’t go closer until he calms down. You should watch your dog’s body language for signs of stress such as lip licking, lowered head and body posture, ears back, tail tucked, looking away, a shake off, sigh, yawn. If you see these signs your dog is saying it is not okay. Try adding more distance. Also If your dog is shy, worried, or overly excited, leave the situation and work with a positive training professional who can help both of you. If your dog is happy, comfortable and having a blast, you’re doing a great job of socialising them.
Angela’s tips on how to socialise your dog using positive methods to…
- Prevent noise phobia, (e.g. fear of thunder), by feeding your dog a treat every time the noise happens.
- Introduce slowly from a distance to frightening sounds such as the vacuum, lawn mower etc.
- Gently expose your puppy to different noises will help build their resilience and cope later.
- Introduce the sounds at their own pace and only from a distance where they are comfortable.
- Never force your dog at any time!
- Avoid frightening situations, such as fireworks, unless you are there to turn it positive.
- Introduce your dog to all kinds of people by letting your dog approach and at their own pace, only if and when he wants to.
- Associate new people with wonderful things such as treats and toys
- Ensure puppies are gently and positively exposed to different people
- People should ask before approaching
- Learn to read and check your dog’s body language during interactions with adults and kids
- Feed your dog treats during these interactions
- Always check that the other animal is friendly and tolerant of dogs before you let your dog approach (don’t take the other owner’s word for it! Check both dogs’ body language first and if there is doubt, then don’t introduce them)
- Teach your dog how to act politely around other animals by rewarding for good behaviour. Redirect your puppy to focus on something else like a food puzzle or toy if he becomes pushy or overly excited
- If your dog doesn’t want to play with dogs (unfamiliar or known), that’s okay!
- Don’t ever force interaction between your puppy and another dog or another animal like a cat.
- Supervise every interaction and intervene gently if the play between your puppy and the other puppy becomes one-sided or too much for the puppy.
- Find other dogs that are fully vaccinated
- Introduce your puppy to lots of surfaces – gravel, tile, concrete, carpet, plastic, rubber, grass, snow, and sand etc
- Take rides in a car, boat, train, elevator
- Introduce different objects to them eg. toys
- Get them used to a car harness and to walk on a lead
- Teach your dog to be comfortable with gentle handling by praising and rewarding them with treats for being calm and allowing you to handle them. A must for tick checks, vet checks, grooming, ear cleaning, nail clipping, teeth cleaning – visit the vet and the groomer just for treats and petting to start.
About Angela Noakes
Angela Noakes is studying positive dog training at the Delta Institute of Australia to attain a Cert IV Companion Animal Services and become an accredited Delta dog trainer.
Angela has lived in Canberra all her life and pets have always been part of her family. Currently she as three dogs, Bailey Bear, Chloe Bear and Kody Bear. Angela first discovered clicker training methods and positive reinforcement training when Bailey was enrolled in puppy preschool nine years ago. Angela attended formal obedience classes with Chloe and Bailey and completed advanced levels. Angela’s third dog Kody was the reason she wanted to explore dog training and dog behaviour further. Kody was a rescue. He had been locked in a bedroom 24/7 by his owner and had no proper socialisation.
Angela visits Hospital and Aged Care facilities in Canberra with two of her dogs as a Delta Therapy dog. Angela was often asked, ‘how did you train your dogs to be so calm?’ This got Angela thinking and then started her journey to become a dog trainer. Her mission is to help dog owners unleash their dog’s full ‘pawtential’and teach their dogs to be good citizens in the community!
Contact Angela Noakes at Positive Pooch Solutions Facebook or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.