How To Socialise Your Puppy
If you've just got a new dog you may be wondering what can I do to prevent my puppy's behavioural problems? Our friend Rosie Bescoby, a Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist, has the answers. She shares the best way to socialise your puppy.
Stay close to your puppy at night
One of the first things you will need to consider when you bring your puppy home is how you are going to set them up at night-time to avoid distress. We know that a secure attachment is formed by preventing and responding to distress, so it is beneficial for your puppy if you stay close to them whilst they adjust to their new environment.
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Puppy's need to learn to sleep through the night
Then, once they are happily sleeping through the night and their confidence has built, you can start to gradually wean them away from you at night. This will also lead into success at being separated from you during the day and progress to them learning that it is safe for them when you leave the house, as long as you build this up slowly and ensure the puppy never becomes distressed.
Give them items they can destroy
You can build confidence and independence when you are at home with your puppy by providing them with items to explore, manipulate and destroy by themselves, such as empty plastic bottles or cardboard boxes and plenty of puppy-appropriate items to chew on and lick at - such as stuffed Kongs or LickiMats.
Read More: Why Your Dog Needs a Kong
Puppies explore with their mouths
Stealing and chewing of items that don’t belong to the puppy is a common occurrence – they are naturally inquisitive and playful and have no hands to investigate items, so they use their mouths instead! They are also teething so will actively seek out items to soothe their gum pain.
Don't take the stolen item back
If we attempt to get the item off them, we risk turning it into a game or a puppy that starts to become defensive in order to keep hold of their stolen treasure.
By doing this, we are also inadvertently increasing the perceived value of the item – in other words, the puppy starts to believe that the tissue they stole out of the bin must really be worth keeping hold of! Instead, we want to teach the puppy to come to us – either with or without the item, and they get rewarded for responding to us calling them. The puppy is choosing to remove themselves from the item either in response to being called or in anticipation of the reward.
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Keep valuable items away from your puppy
Of course it goes without saying that it is also the human’s responsibility to ensure there are no valuable or potentially dangerous items left within the puppy’s reach at any time, until the puppy has learnt what is available and appropriate for them to pick up and chew on and that anything else is not relevant for them.
Let your puppy eat in peace
Build trust from the start when your puppy is eating, chewing or sleeping by leaving them well alone. Disturbing them or attempting to control access to their food or attempting to prove the item can be touched or taken will actually contribute to possessive behaviour.
Knowing the lead before going on a walk
Preventing lead pulling from becoming established is much easier than attempting to resolve it once a puppy has learnt to pull against lead pressure. This starts at home from the moment you introduce the lead. Pop a few pieces of food on the floor and whilst your puppy is busy eating them, gently clip the lead on (so that they do not notice). Take a step forward, keeping the lead loose, and place another few pieces of food on the floor next to your feet. As the puppy moves forward to eat, take another step forward and repeat. Do this 3-4 times and then unclip the lead.
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Practice the lead with treats
Practice this around the house and in the garden, building up the number of steps in between putting down food next to your feet. This will build a pattern of behaviour where the puppy learns to ignore the lead (no lead biting!) and anticipates something nice happening next to you – they have no reason to move ahead of you.
Avoid lead tension at all costs
Alongside teaching them that good stuff happens next to you, it is also important never to follow the puppy if the lead goes tense – regardless of what they are trying to pull you towards – and to never pull on the lead yourself. Avoiding lead tension means that the puppy never has anything to pull against.
Always reward your puppy when they come to you
If you want a puppy to always respond when you call them (which is essential for being able to let your puppy or older dog off the lead, otherwise they are not under sufficient control), you want to make sure you are always associated with positive things and nothing that your puppy finds unpleasant. Always reward them when they come to you, either of their own accord or when you call them.
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It's NOT all about playtime
Correct socialisation involves teaching a puppy how to interact appropriately with other dogs, humans and sometimes other animals such as cats. What most of us actually want from our dogs is for them to be able to greet other dogs and humans calmly and briefly, only if it is appropriate to do so. What we don’t want is a dog who thinks every dog wants to play with them and runs across the park to gate-crash another dog’s party.
A brisk walk at the dog park is best
So we need to be careful about what expectations we are setting for young puppies in our attempts to socialise them. Walking past people and dogs calmly but paying more attention to their owner, with maybe a quick sniff then moving on if another dog initiates a greeting, is far more beneficial for your puppy than environments where play or forced interaction is the focus.
If you put all Rosie's great advice into action, your dog will thank you for it! Rosie also has some helpful tips for those of us worried about when we need to back to the office on how to help our dogs settle at home alone and, if you need some professional support, how to choose the right behaviourist.
Meanwhile, there is loads of expert advice on raising your pup right here at DogLife360. You'll find articles and video tutorials in our Training and Behaviour, tips from the experts and information you can trust in Health and Wellness and for stories, news, places to go and hot topics you love to know, check out our Blog section.