Socialising your puppy is a critical part of raising a well-adjusted dog who will cope with people and situations as an adult. Through socialisation, puppies can learn to fit into society, learn to live with humans and also with other dogs. If dogs are not correctly socialised, they may develop inappropriate behaviors when exposed to new situations or new dogs and people. This can include being overly aggressive or fearful in unfamiliar circumstances, and if these behaviours are adopted as a young dog, it is more difficult to change as an adult dog.
Socialising starts when a puppy is still with its mother and with the breeder. A puppy first learns canine body language and pack structure from around three to four weeks of age, while playing and interacting with its litter mates. It is important that a breeder handles the puppies and plays with them regularly, to give them positive early experiences with people. When seeking to buy a puppy, ask to see the parents, and where the canine family are housed. Observe the interaction of the breeder and the parent dogs, if this is a kind and relaxed interaction, you will have more chance of the puppies having already had positive interaction with humans.
The ideal time to bring your new puppy home is when he is eight weeks old. The period from eight to twelve weeks of age is very important for socialisation, as your pup is very open to learning and enjoying new experiences. At this stage it is very important that the puppy have positive experiences with people and other animals. Introduce your puppy to other animals who are calm and well behaved, and people and children who are gentle and kind to animals.
Puppy preschool is also very important for your young dog. It allows puppies to meet and interact with other dogs of a similar age and level of development, as well as learning some basic obedience commands. This improves the communication skills of your puppy, as well as enhances the bond between dog and owner. It also allows your dog to sniff and explore in a safe and supportive environment. Introduction to the small animal section of the local dog park is a good idea at this age.
Before attending a dog park, make sure the puppy is up to date on vaccinations. Most dog parks have rules and expectations of behavior – visit the park without your pup first to observe the interactions of the people and dogs who regularly go there. If there is no section for small dogs, it is probably advisable to try another park, until your dog is an adult. A puppy is learning and needs to gain confidence, so don’t introduce the puppy to adult dogs in a setting like a dog park until it is mature. Not all dogs at the dog park are under complete control or socialised.
Caring for and socialising a puppy takes a constant effort on the part of the owners. However, effort in the beginning is rewarded with a healthy, happy and confident adult dog, who will be a wonderful companion and can cope with anything he encounters.