During the course of socialisation, a puppy is learning about itself, its relationships with other dogs and people as well as about the environment around him.
For your puppy to feel comfortable in all situations, he needs to learn how to mix with people, animals and other dogs, in the various settings he is likely to encounter through his life. Just as early experiences in humans can affect a person’s behaviour or attitude when they are older, dogs are the same.
Before seven weeks, the puppy will bond with his mother, learning from her and his littermates about how to become a dog, how to play and will be chastised too for being too aggressive in his biting. This is in fact how he will learn biting inhibition. It is recommended that a puppy should have regular contact with his mother for the first ten weeks of his life.
In puppies, the period between seven and fourteen weeks has been found to be a critical time for socialisation. This is when the puppy should be introduced to experiences such as people and places that will become familiar to him in the future.
Presenting the dog with strange new experiences after this period can induce fear and anxiety. Through being gradually introduced to all kinds of new experiences, the puppy will slowly get used to the world around him without displaying fearful responses. Puppies who aren’t exposed to people, new situations and other animals during this critical period can develop fears that will lead to future behavioural and/or emotional problems.
To help your puppy become a confident, well-adjusted dog, make certain he (or she) does not undergo any experiences that make him fearful, nervous or anxious during this critical time or it could affect him for the rest of his life.
Your puppy should be introduced to new experiences, gently. At all times you should be ready to remove him from situations that cause him to be overly anxious. Even so it is important that between seven and fourteen weeks, your puppy is slowly introduced to people, places and environments he is likely to encounter during his life.
Even before your puppy is vaccinated, you can take it on outings where he or she might meet friendly people and get used to human contact. We, for instance, carried our puppy around local markets where people approached and petted her while in the comfort of someone’s arms.
Once your puppy is vaccinated, take him for walks in the park or in your neighbourhood where he might meet people and other dogs too. You might attend puppy training classes. Try to make every encounter a positive one and never push you puppy into situations that may overwhelm him.
Puppies can be fearful of strangers. Forcing a puppy that is afraid of people to be stroked by someone he doesn’t know isn’t likely to make him any less apprehensive. Instead wait for the dog to approach the stranger.
They might then offer a titbit without looking directly at the puppy. Gradually the shy puppy will get used to meeting people through a process of being exposed to the situation that frightens him and being rewarded for calm behaviour. It can be a time-consuming process but if carried out before the age of fourteen weeks it will help alleviate fearfulness when he is older.
Never mollycoddle a puppy who acts afraid in situations you are trying to get it used to otherwise this will reinforce the behaviour. Whether the puppy is fearful of strangers, riding in the car, walking in the street or other dogs, the concept is the same. Never hurry or push the puppy to the point that he is afraid.
Ways to Help a Puppy Socialise
* Between the age of seven and fourteen weeks, take puppy everywhere you go. Carry him before he has had his vaccinations. Expose him to people, children, other dogs and experiences he is likely to meet through his life.
* Encourage puppy to experience different kinds of places: homes, gardens, crowded rooms, the countryside, the sea, sand, children’s playgrounds, the park.
* Introduce puppy to moving objects: children on bikes, pushchairs, people running, cars and other traffic etc.
* Introduce puppy to different noises: doors slamming, engine noises, vacuums, children playing, stereos and televisions, other dogs barking.
* Introduce puppy to new challenges: running after ball, climbing under and over obstacles, new playthings, playing with children, playing with other dogs.
Different breeds of dogs will display different characteristics and some will be more friendly and gentle than others. For this reason, when buying a puppy, you should also choose a one with a likely temperament that will suit your family’s circumstances.