We all know that most dogs are very social animals who love spending time with their owners. They also love meeting new people and dogs (some even like cats!)
Socialisation is really important to help your pooch to develop and learn how to behave in different situations. It is also the best way to build your dog’s confidence as well as giving them much needed mental stimulation.
Well socialised dogs are generally the most friendly, comfortable and confident, compared to shy, scared or even aggressive dogs who haven’t been given the chance to socialise properly. And do you know what? As dog owners, it is our responsibility to give our pups as much chance to meet new people and dogs as possible from an early age and to teach them how to handle each situation they come across.
Introducing new people
This is probably the easiest part of socialising, because unless you live in the middle of nowhere, you will come across people all of the time.
When my lab was a young pup and experiencing her first walks she loved seeing new people. She wanted to meet everyone and couldn’t understand why some people walked straight passed her, and not everyone wanted to stop and cuddle her (although most people did actually want to stop and fuss the adorable furbaby that was giving them her best puppy-dog eyes!). Well thankfully, now she is a bit older she’s learnt to ignore people unless I give her the cue to go to them.
The trick is to teach your dog that people walking past them is perfectly normal and doesn’t need a reaction. Remember, not everyone likes dogs so it’s really important that you train your dog to respond to your instructions.
Imagine if you’re not comfortable with dogs and a great big bouncy ball of fluff comes hurtling towards you giving you their best, teethy grin – this could be terrifying for some people. And if you can’t trust how your dog will act you need to be able to prevent any unwanted situations. They may be the friendliest dog in the world, but with all the excitement of seeing a new person, they may jump up and knock someone over.
The only way to get your dog used to meeting and even ignoring new people is to walk them in busy environments where there are lots of pedestrians. Some will stop and pet your dog, although most will probably walk straight past without giving them a second glance.
Dogs need to get used to different types of people too, so make sure you factor that in when planning where to walk them while you’re training them. Some dogs are scared of children and others love the playful noises they make, either way it’s crucial that your dog has enough opportunities to learn how to behave around children.
Imagine your dog meets children for the first time, they have just left school, they are making loads of noise and dancing around the path – how does your dog react? My dog used to get beside herself with excitement at hearing the high-pitched noises of children approaching. While this is preferable to her being scared, it was vital for her to learn to ignore them, something that, in a lot of cases, can only be achieved with perseverance.
Dogs also react differently to people in uniforms, high-vis clothing, cyclists and even people with umbrellas. I will never forget the embarrassment of taking my four month old pup to the park on a rainy winter morning, when two people approached, fending off the rain with large brollies. Well Bella couldn’t understand the weird things they were holding above their heads and persisted to bark and bark. Fortunately, the couple saw the funny side and understood that she was in training and learning new experiences. In fact, they even went as far as taking down their umbrellas to give Bella a fuss – wow, those big umbrella’s aren’t that scary after all! This highlighted to me that I needed to spend some time getting her used to them, and now she doesn’t bat an eyelid.
Introducing Puppy Pals
A really crucial part of your dogs’ development is allowing them to make as many puppy friends as possible.
Again, this can be really easy if you know other people with dogs. First start by introducing them to each other on loose leads, and once you are comfortable that they get along, you can let them tear around the garden together – they will have hours of fun, and it’s a great way of getting in exercise and mental stimulation as they learn how to behave around each other.
I introduce my dog to as many dogs in the street and park as possible, most owners will also want to do the same but it’s always worth asking the owner and assessing the body language of the other dogs before you approach them.
Dogs Love Sniffing!
You will know that your dog does most of it’s information gathering through it’s nose, and it is exactly the same when they meet other dogs. So, don’t be embarrassed if they start sniffing each other’s back ends, this is their perfectly normal way of getting to know each other.
It is also perfectly normal to sniff lamp-posts and other spots where other dogs have been, this is basically like the Facebook of the doggy world, where they can check the newsfeed to find out who was there, how they are and even what they had for tea!
Make New Experiences Your Mission!
It’s easy for dogs to get absorbed into your daily routine, and this can sometimes mean they don’t access as many new experiences as they should. Try and make it your mission to introduce new experiences to your dog as much as possible – they will thank you for it! Whether it’s playing in the snow, burying treats in the garden for them to find, swimming in the lake, playing with new friends, going into a busy or new town, accompanying you on holiday or whatever else you can think of, new experiences really do enrich the lives of our furry friends in the same way that they do us. I hope you enjoy sharing loads of fun and exciting new things together!