By Jane Sigsworth
Dog Trainer and Behaviourist
Action Petz aims to provide a safe environment where dogs and their guardians can enjoy socialising with others.
Sometimes dog guardians make contact to ask if they can bring their dog along because “they need some socialisation”.
In these cases, we need to ask a few more questions because in dog behaviour terms ‘socialisation’ means something very different to ‘socialising’!
The Collins Dictionary defines ‘socialising’ as the action of behaving in a sociable or friendly manner.
Socialisation in Dogs
Socialisation is the term used to describe how puppies are appropriately exposed to a broad range of people, other animals, sounds, smells, surfaces and experiences.
We know that the experiences that a puppy has between 3 and 14 weeks of age (referred to as the ‘Sensitive Period’) are vital in terms of their development. Research tells us that a puppy is more likely to mature into a sociable confident adult who is comfortable with new situations, when they have enjoyed plenty of positive experiences during the Sensitive Period.
To understand why your dog may not be the social butterfly you’d hoped for, we may need to look at their early life experiences.
Unfortunately, by the time, we collect our wonderful bundle of puppy joy, a large chunk of this socialisation window has already elapsed. This is a major reason why we need to be sure about the type of environment where our puppy has been bred.
Responsible breeders will raise puppies in a home environment where they can experience the types of sounds, smells, surfaces, a range of different people, and other animals that they might encounter later in life. This will be undertaken in a careful and controlled way, ensuring that the puppy views these as positive experiences.
The clock is ticking as soon as you collect your puppy, so be sure to continue with good quality socialisation. Too often dog guardians feel that the job is done because their puppy is friendly towards them and other family members and friends.
However, socialisation is not just about how well a puppy responds today. It is also about how well they will respond to new people and situations in the future.
So, in summary, we could say that socialisation helps our dogs with socialising. Unfortunately, we can’t use socialising as a way to reverse poor socialisation.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t help improve your dog’s behaviour around other dogs, it just means that we need to do it differently.
Join our Feisty to Friendly course to learn why your dog is not always sociable around other dogs and the best ways to address it.
If you are thinking about buying a puppy, read this excellent advice about How to Choose a Puppy in Four Easy Steps.