Published: 06 April 2017

Making sure your puppy is socialised can make life easier and if they’re comfortable in a variety of settings accidents are less likely to happen. These top ten tips for socialising your puppy are courtesy of K9 magazine. If you'd like to be prepared in case of an emergency, join us on our First Aid for Dogs course.

1) It is essential when you start to socialise your dog that it is done in the company of another dog(s) who is/are friendly, well adjusted and tolerant. Trying to socialise your dog with a dog suffering from their own personal anxieties will lead to disaster.

2) Make a point of being able to ‘control’ certain environmental scenarios when you are exposing your dog to them for the first time. For instance, make sure that the first time you take your dog for a walk on a busy high street, it is not on an occasion when you are running late and your attention may be focused away from the dog. Instead set aside the time to introduce your dog ‘gently’ to different environmental elements such as loud vehicle noises, busy traffic, hustle and bustle of people and different smells in different areas. Make sure your focus is on the dog and you are in a position to comfort and reassure them at all times.

Plan ahead. Don’t throw the dog in at the deep end by exposing them to too much too soon it could have disastrous results. Try to expose your dog to different scenarios where you can control what is likely to happen and how you will respond to the dog, depending on his or her reaction to events.

3) Try and allow your dog to have some sort of interaction with children at the earliest possible opportunity. Always ensure this interaction is monitored 100% of the time but make a point of allowing your dog to find out for themselves what children are and how they respond different to adults.

The earlier your dog can get a firm understanding that children are not a threat to pack status or are a viable target for a challenge of authority, the better they will respond when confronted with younger people throughout the course of the dog’s life. It must be stressed further though: NEVER allow a dog to be left unattended with a child or baby that it is not familiar with.

4) Try and ‘hand-pick’ the dogs that you allow your dog to be introduced to at an early age. Generally dogs that are considerably older and who are already very well socialised themselves will make excellent ‘role-models’ for your own dog. If your dog is introduced, either deliberately or through circumstances out of your control to an overly aggressive or overly nervous dog it can lead to your dog adopting a similar response.

Remember, dogs learn by association and they form behavioural habits very quickly. It is well worth while to go out of your way to set up early meetings between your dog and a variety of other, carefully selected canine-companions.

5) Although it can be difficult at times, allowing your dog to experience the natural reactions of another dog can often be beneficial. For example, male dogs who show an over eagerness to explore the private areas of other dogs will, on occasion come up against resistance in the form of a ‘snap’, deep growl or obvious display of aggression.

Sometimes it is worth remembering that dogs are the best teachers when it comes to eradicating unwanted behaviour in their canine-counterparts and allowing your dog to experience first hand that all other dogs may not necessarily want to play or be investigated can be extremely beneficial to their early learning curve.

6) Don’t inadvertently re-enforce fearful responses from your dog when socialising. If your dog acts fearfully to a new situation such as meeting another (friendly/inquisitive) dog, don’t pick him or her up or make a big fuss. Instead allow your dog to process what is happening in their own time and approach it in their own manner at their own pace. By trying to re-assure your dog if he or she responds with fear you may be accidentally instilling the belief that acting fearfully to new situations is the desired response you are looking for from your dog.

By making an intervention you will also be preventing the dog from carrying out a canine/canine interaction in the natural way and the dog will learn to expect your intervention all the time. Obviously in situations when your dog is presented with an aggressive or potentially dangerous situation you must read the situation and act by simply removing your dog from the vicinity of the danger with as little fuss as possible.

If you can, simply turn away in another direction, don’t say a word and carry on your way as if nothing has happened. Remember at all times that your dog regards you as his or her pack leader and the way YOU respond to situations will have an enormous bearing on how your dog responds.

7) Develop an understanding and ability to ‘read’ your dog. Try and predict your dog’s responses to certain events and ensure you are able to act if necessary. For instance, if your dog is very playful or bold, is he likely to get into trouble by being too forward with another dog or person? How will your dog respond to a dog who is likely to snap? How will you deal with the situation? You must plan for all scenarios, formulate how you will respond and put it into practice the moment it happens.

It is not at all uncommon for some dogs to suffer with longstanding fears as a result of incidents that happened years ago if it was something they had either never experienced before of if their owners were not prepared to take appropriate action at the moment the incident occurred.

Situations where dogs have had an ongoing fear of a particular breed as result of a frightening experience earlier on in their life are common and therefore your foresight and ability to act quickly can really help your dog to regain confidence and composure very quickly in the event that they suffer an unpleasant experience at the hands of another dog or person.

8) Always make a point to reward positive behaviour from your dog when they are interacting with other dogs. Dogs, very much like children have the uncanny ability to pick up bad habits from other dogs far quicker than you can instil the good habits into their psyche. Make sure your dog is rewarded for good behaviour despite what may be going on around him or her. Dogs, when together, can act very differently to the way they normally do when they are on their own. Barking at people, chasing animals or anything else that moves, stealing from each other, mounting or riding one another are just some of the unwanted behavioural traits displayed when their pack instincts are awoken and their confidence levels are up as a result of being surrounded by canine-chums.

Ensure your dog is rewarded for not taking part in undesirable activity by praising him or her for behaving normally when all around them are ‘showing-off’. Make a big point of letting your dog know that you are pleased with them for not joining in the bad behaviour even though they may not have done anything out of the ordinary. YOU will never know how tempting it was for your dog to join in the ‘fun’!

9) Include your dog in as much as you are able to. Always try and think to yourself ‘can the dog come?’ You might be going to the pub for a quick drink ‘can the dog come?’ You might be going in the car to the tip to get rid of some junk, ‘can the dog come?’ Picking the kids up from school, ‘can the dog come?’ Wherever possible expose your dog to as much as you humanly can and always try and include them in different activities and expose them to different environments.

Make it a rule whenever you are about to do something or go somewhere ask yourself ‘can the dog come?’ Remember to assess each situation and plan ahead. Can you, at least to some extent ‘control’ the scenario? Do you have your pre-planned responses worked out? Are you in a position to ‘read’ your dog? Can you ensure your dog will be safe and you will be in a position to reassure him or her if needed? If the answer is yes then take the dog where you go as often as you can.

10) Dog training classes are excellent as they will allow you to socialise your dog in a controlled environment under the watchful eye of a knowledgeable dog trainer or behaviour expert. Take advantage of them even if you are confident of being able to train your own dog in the basic commands. You can’t beat the experience of allowing your dog to mix freely with all sorts of other dogs or different shapes, sizes and temperaments.

Make the most of these classes even if you only attend occasionally.

We hope you find these tips useful and beneficial. Why not also learn First Aid for Dogs too, so you'll be prepared in case of an accident. We have courses running at various locations in the UK or, if you've a group of friends or colleagues, we can run a bespoke course especially for you. Just get in touch to find out more!

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