most essential factor when raising any puppy, regardless of any background or
breed, is socialisation.
Socialisation is simply introducing your puppy to the world in preparation for the rest of it’s entire life. Done correctly this education will result in your adult dog being calm and confident in every situation it ever finds itself in. They will understand everything that happens around them and will behave in a socially acceptable manner whatever they encounter. If left unguided how a puppy behaves in any given situation determines how it will do so as an adult, so although jumping up and mouthing for attention is cute at fifteen weeks old, it could be a huge problem by one year old! If the pup is instead taught to sit next to new people and wait for a fuss then this is how they will greet people as an adult.
There is a very short timescale to complete this education, ideally it will be completed by three months of age then completed repeated by six months of age. After this point reinforcement should applied as and when it is required. By the time your puppy reaches six months old ideally there should be nothing in life of which it is unsure of because it has already encountered everything positively and calmly.
Socialising and educating a puppy should be fun for everybody, but it is essential to ensure your pup grows into a socially acceptable adult. This process does require a lot of time, effectively, the more the better. So if you haven’t got the time to spend raising a puppy correctly, you should really reconsider getting a puppy at all and perhaps adopt an adult dog.
How to socialise a Puppy.
All you are looking to do through socialisation is show a puppy how it should react to, and behave around, absolutely everything it encounters and experiences. This should simply be calm and positive. Excitement is an over-reaction and will lead to behavioural issues. Fear is also an over-reaction which will also lead to behavioural issues. You need to set up every encounter so your pup is happy and curious or simply calm and relaxed. If you pup shows caution or hesitation use treats to encourage some positivity or simply reduce the stress by moving further away from the situation. You can then take the time to create a more positive approach to that scenario. Distance is an important tool; the further away a stressor is the less stress it evokes. There is almost nothing which can’t be encountered in a fun relaxed way; cars/buggies/gravel/crowds/crates, you just need some imagination and of course some high quality treats!
The most important aspect of socialisation is dogs and people, these are the two areas which can cause the most serious issues later in life. When raising puppies I aim to have my pup meet over one hundred dogs and one hundred people within the first three months, then repeat this again by six months. These meetings will be calm and positive, not over excited, impolite or fearful. This will ensure once the pup becomes an adult they will know how to politely meet every type of dog and person they encounter whether that is on lead or offlead.
Everyday things we take for granted are complete unknowns for puppies, so your job as the new parental figure to this youngster is to show the pup everything and let it learn that there is nothing to fear. Naturally it’s own parents and family would have completed this education with the pup and prepared it for life. As you have taken this youngster into your home that responsibility is now yours!
Here is a downloadable socialisation checklist;
Whilst I was fostering some 6 week old Collie pups for North Clwyd Animal Rescue I took them to many places to experience many things from the safety of inside my nice warm coat. They came almost everywhere with me and by the time they were ready to actually go on the ground and walk they were already comfortable with everyday environments and occurrences. We met lots of people and lots of dogs. They were then already well on their way to becoming, socially skilled, calm and relaxed companions for whichever family adopted them into their family.
Here is a photo gallery showing some of Nahla's socialisation experiences whilst I fostered, then adopted her;
Here is a graphic showing how emotional development in a dog compares to a human’s. Understanding what motivated a behaviour will help you work with your dog and change that behaviour in the future;
Here is a video of a Collie pup having a bit of a socialisation boot camp with Nahla and myself...
This video shows Nahla helping build the confidence and education of a tiny orphaned pup who was pretty scared of everything! From here Annie was able to rapidly build on what she had learnt and grow into a confident adult.