Socialisation is something of a mystery to a lot of new puppy owners. The term socialisation actually means ‘the activity of mixing socially with others’ or ‘the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society’
So, how do we apply such a broad meaning to our dogs and puppies socialisation?
If you look online you will find lots of blogs and articles on sociliasing puppies. Often with conflicting information. But they usually fall into the following categories. (Note: these are not what we would class as the best way to ‘socialise’ your puppy)
As well meaning as they are, time and time again, weI have clients coming to us that ‘did everything by the book’ and they have ended up with a very reactive puppy or dog.
If this is the way you have already been socialising your puppy – PLEASE DON’T WORRY!
We can change how your dog thinks about the world around them no matter what stage they are at.
But if you have a puppy, then what better time is there to safeguard all that lovely optimism and confidence that we want to grow in your pup to handle anything that life throws at them.
So, what do other trainers suggest is the best way to socialise a new puppy?
1.The Tick List Approach
Some trainers will give you a tick list (often vets will advise this too) to introduce your dogs to as MANY unusual things as possible in the big wide world. People with hats, glasses, tall people, short people and children. They tell you to give your puppy lots of food and to tick it off the list before moving onto the next thing. The same goes for introducing dogs. Introduce them to big ones, small ones, dark ones, light ones, fluffy ones, friendly ones and barking ones. And let’s not forget to throw them into socilalisation classes where they can run riot with each other and learn that playing with other dogs is cool and fun…or is it?
Do you think this works?
You can perhaps see the logic behind it.
But, introducing your puppy to so much novelty, no matter how slowly, in the big wide world with zero control over the situation could actually make things a LOT worse for him. Not to mention stressful. Dogs can show very subtle signs when it comes to stress and research shows that as owners, we are actually very bad at recognising this until it’s too late. And they are a barking lunging mess.
2.The ‘Pairing with Yummy Treats’ Approach
Some trainers will agree that yes, socialising means introducing things slowly, and NOT to throw them into large group dog situations. But they will still advise that you go out there and pair as much novelty as possible with yummy treats. Take your puppy with you everywhere. Noisy places, busy places and places with lots of people etc. ‘Get them used to lots of situations, take them to the pub every week’ It’s almost like they treat every dog the same, with the same template, on the basis that all dogs are born the same and so you will get the same results.
The problem with this? All dogs are NOT the same. And as a concept trainer we very much look at a dog’s personality as a whole rather then work on specific behaviours.
Here’s the thing. If you keep putting your slightly unconfident dog into situations they aren’t 100% happy with, for long periods, then eventually your dog is going to react no matter how many treats you give them.
Why? Because you are only looking to solve a ‘behaviour’ Sitting in the pub nicely. Watching other dogs play at the park. You are not addressing their confidence as a whole and starting in an environment that they feel safe in.
If you do happen to have a very confident dog that is unfazed by the world then you may find that you get away with this type of socialising for a while. But that optimism and confidence they have needs guarding. Just as we can help turn an unconfident dog into a confident one, we can take it away from them without the right approach.
3. The Concept Training Approach
Essentially we start by building confidence and optimism in your dog through games!
- Games you can play in the house, in the garden, and games that you can then take on the road. Essentially you will have the MOST AWESOME toolbox of games that you can take anywhere!
- We pair novelty with food in a CONTROLLED environment with games that introduce objects and noise carefully.
- We teach our puppies that novelty is actually cool. We don’t need to show them every single variation of novelty they might see on the road, because we are slowly re-shaping their brains to be COOL and CONFIDENT with novelty.
- We also have safety nets in our back pocket we can pull out if our dog does bump into real life situations that they don’t enjoy.
- We look at our dog as an individual and we don’t squeeze them into a doggy shaped box and treat them all the same.
These games, tips and advice are all available on my puppy course.
With the course you get free handouts recapping the games, as well as a dedicated facebook group when you can come and ask questions at ANY time. You can share videos of your progress and get feedback from me.
The Pitfalls of OVER socialising
One of my recent clients came to me, as she was previously advised to take her slightly anxious dog to the pub every week and to take him for a walk three times a day and that lots of children stroking him on the school run was a good thing as ‘he would learn that actually nothing bad is going to happen’. Sadly it wasn’t good for him. Her slightly anxious puppy turned into a very anxious puppy that ended up being extremely reactive to noises, people and other dogs. He also started reacting to people at the pub barking and lunging at them – so they had to stop taking him.
Once we started to put concept training into place concentrating on the most important considerations for him and she stopped putting him INTO those situations, we built up his confidence to the point that in just a couple of months his reactiveness to people and dogs had reduced and his noise sensitivities had decreased dramatically. He can now go off lead again and his recall is amazing for a dog his age.
If you want to set your puppy up for the BEST life possible, with training based on the most RECENT scientific research, that delivers RESULTS, instead of half hearted ‘behaviours’ then join our fun an interactive puppy group which runs every Tuesday online and every Saturday In Person.
If you have an older dog who is totally new to concept training then this course is most DEFINITELY for you too! We go back to basics and talk about how we can get REAL LIFE results. It’s never too late.