Socialisation is a crucial component of a dog’s development and the result is a dog that is confident, happy and comfortable in different situations. The problem arises when people think that socialization refers only to dog to dog interaction.
Socialisation involves exposing a dog to as many different sites, sounds, textures, people, animals and environments as possible. It is through this exposure that dogs not only learn to be comfortable in all different types of environments, but they will also learn how to properly act when encountering new people, places and things, including other dogs.
Below is a list of just some of the things that should be introduced to a dog during the socialization process:
· Objects: garbage cans, umbrellas, buses, trucks, cars, bouncing balls, brooms, elevators, stairs.
· Environments: The vet’s office, the dog groomer’s salon, busy city streets, outdoor shopping areas, parks and wooded areas.
· Sounds: Sirens, doorbells, fire alarms, music, thunderstorms, kitchen noises – pots and pans, dishwashers, keys dropping, hair dryers, vacuums.
· Textures: Grass, pavement, gravel, dirt, vinyl, hardwood, tile, rubber and other surfaces both rough and smooth.
· People: Adults – both men and women, young children, elderly, people in wheelchairs and using walkers, teenagers, children and adults running or jogging, kids on skateboards and bicycles, babies in strollers.
· Animals: Dogs, cats, birds, small mammals and any other animal you can think of. Socializing your dog to animals, including other dogs, does not mean your dog needs to make physical contact with the animals. Your dog must learn when it is appropriate to approach other animal and when to keep a distance
And please don’t just let your dog run up to every dog you meet – make sure to ask the other owner before allowing your dog to approach.
Ideally the majority of socialisation will occur during the puppy stage, as this is the best time, developmentally speaking, for a dog to learn about, and accept, all different types of new experiences.
Puppies that are exposed to numerous experiences and environments tend to grow into well-adjusted adult dogs. This does not mean socialisation can’t take place with a dog of any age, or that it should not continue for the life of your dog.
The important thing to remember is each new experience should be introduced so it results in the dog forming a positive association with that experience
Here are just a few things to remember when introducing your dog to something new:
· Go Slowly – Take the time to ensure the experience is positive and fun, not scary and overwhelming.
· Don’t force it – Allow your dog to approach at its own pace, but also don’t let them run away from things that scare them. If your dog seems fearful of something, back off to a distance at which your dog seems comfortable and gradually encourage them to move closer and explore.
· Reward positive interactions – Rewarding with treats, toys or play can help your dog to form a positive association with new experiences.
So remember, socialisation means much more then teaching your dog to interact with other dogs. Taking the time to properly socialize your dog will result in a dog that is happy, confident and comfortable no matter what the situation!