Puppy Socialisation – Part 1

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Socialisation – from when you get your new puppy until they are about 1 year old, and maybe older, is a word you will hear time and time again from anyone who works within the canine care industry. There are very valid reasons why but socialisation does not begin and end with meeting other dogs!

So lets take a hypothetical dog, we will call him Scamper.

Scamper is an 8 week old Cocker Spaniel cross Poodle, who was born on a lovely farm in Wexford. He and his litter mates were housed in a warm shed at the back of the farm with their Mam.  Scamper and his litter mates did have occasional access to a small outside fenced off area, when the weather was fine, but up until now he has only experienced straw flooring or grass underneath his paws. He has never been inside the breeders home and has never yet met children, other animals or been in a car.

Scamper is bought from the breeder by a lovely young family who live in Stillorgan in County Dublin. They come and visit once, and they pay over money to the breeder and bring him home. How many first things do you think the Scamper will experience in the first 24 hours of arriving at his new home? Here are just some of the most common examples:

Sights Experiences Sounds
Children Being driven in a car Radio
Television Walking in a wooden floor Baby crying
Car Being handled by a child Traffic Sounds
Bus drive by Sleeping alone Heating boiler  starting up
Furniture Being scolded by a human Hairdryer
A cat   Being investigated by a strange dog Washing machine
Washing hanging on a line Being bathed Tumble Dryer
Garden ornaments Being cuddled Aeroplane passing overhead

No that’s a very small list in what could be hundreds of new sights, sounds & experiences that could happen to Scamper but we as humans can see how overwhelming that could be on your first day!

Socialisation is not just about having your puppy meet other dogs for play dates, though that is also vitally important too, its about having your puppy experience life in a positive manner. Dog learn by association and its really important that we make sure, as much as is possible, that we mark every new experience with a positive association.

So for example, your new puppy has to go for his first ever vet check, and to get its vaccinations. Make sure to bring along some tasty treats, most moderns vets will have some at their practise but its always good to come prepared. While you dogs is being handled offer them something nice like a small piece of chicken, with repetition, they will begin to associate being handled with something nice being given to them. Easy enough eh?

Apply the same logic to any and all new experiences your puppy has. You don’t necessarily have to go out and buy treats, you can use a portion of their daily food allowance. Think with your puppy brain, what new in his life today, we are heading to the beach so what will he see, hear, smell  and touch for the first time – he will feel sand or reeds under  his paws for the first time, he will smell and hear the sea, he will hear seagulls cry and the waves hitting off the shore, , he will see all of the above listed. One key thing to remember is to encourage your puppy to experience these things, don’t drag them along behind you on lead or force them into a situation they feel fearful of. Its better to slowly encourage them rather than build a negative association with the environment.



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