Your News: The truth about ‘Socialisation’

Karen Wild column EMN-140715-124751001
Karen Wild column EMN-140715-124751001

If you are fortunate enough to be getting a puppy soon (and remember, it is a privilege, not a right), you will be told to 'socialise' it to prevent behaviour problems. What does this mean?

During their early lives, puppies learn to cope with new experiences and develop knowledge of what is 'safe' and 'dangerous'. If a dog does not learn to enjoy the world in which they will be living during this early, sensitive period, there is a high risk of that dog finding everyday events very scary.

Between 8-11 weeks is the most sensitive period, which is why most owners are advised to get their pups at this age. During this phase the puppy must meet many people of all ages and of course, as many vaccinated, nice adult dogs as possible. They are learning that this is what life is like, at an age where they can assimilate such information rapidly.

Pups from puppy farm kennels or not raised in a home environment, or brought back from the breeder aged 12 weeks or more, may not develop this 'bounce back' capacity. Another dog, a child, a wheelie bin, or tractors could normally be a little bit challenging or noisy, but if the pup has not learned that they are part of everyday life, they will appear threatening. Choose wisely.

Nervous puppies can sometimes be brought out of their shells in a behaviourally-focused puppy class, but a normal training class will usually not address this problem and the nervousness can lead to barking, avoidance, and aggression for the remainder of their lives.

Equip yourself with really tasty treats and take your puppy out with you for around 30 minutes at a time. Carry the pup if their vaccinations are not complete. Every new experience and meeting can be linked with a nice piece of food. Easy! Even a lorry can herald a piece of chicken, every child asking to stroke the pup can offer a little titbit of food. Normal life is busy, active and noisy. Your puppy will soon learn that the world is a fun, not scary, place to be.