In 2020, we’ve seen a big influx in the sales of puppies. I know from listening to new puppy guardians that it has been quite a worry for many that their puppy isn’t going to be socialised correctly due to the lack of contact with other dogs and humans.
Firstly let’s talking about socialisation…
If you look in a dictionary, socialised is defined as the process of learning to behave in way that is deemed acceptable to society. Socialisation is the process of becoming social. So it’s about our puppy’s interactions with other living creatures such as others dogs, humans or cats. It’s to help our puppy grow up to be a functioning member of society by being able to cohabit with other species. For socialisation to be affective, owners need to make sure that their puppy is being positively socialised. If your puppy isn’t having a good time, then that isn’t correct socialisation.
The puppy shouldn’t be forced to do something and should always be able to move away if they wanted. A puppy approaching something should be on their own terms and they always have the ability to go back to their owners if needed. The interactions should also be carefully chosen. People can be too over baring for puppies because they just want to stroke and cuddle them. Other animals could also be too bouncy and too full on and may make your puppy anxious. This could also be turned around and a bouncy puppy may be too much for some animals.
A lot of guardians don’t know about habituation
Habituation is getting our puppy used to the world around them. By slowly and positively introducing our puppy to stimuli in the world so it’s not such a scary thing later on in life. This isn’t just limited to noises and sight, such as a child screaming or a loud exhaust on a car. This is also getting our puppy used to different textures, such as grass, gravel and tarmac.
You can also use habituation with things that they may already be socialised to, such as other dogs, people, horses, cattle etc. I don’t want my puppy to socialise with cattle as I don’t want them to grow up thinking that cattle are something they can approach. My aim would be for my puppy not to interact with them, more so them getting used to their presence but with a neutral reaction that in fact the cattle aren’t really all that interesting and therefore don’t need to be bothered.
There is no need to panic!
Essentially habituation is the puppy learning to ignore stimuli that would have no consequence to them. The world is a busy place; the house can even be a busy place so we need to teach our puppy to ignore things that they may have to live with, such as hoovers and washing machines. Outdoors this could be cyclists and cars etc. It would make life very hard if our dogs felt they had to interact with everything around them.
The ultimate aim is to prepare your puppy for anything that may be a part of their life. We need to show our puppy that we do not live in a static environment. Changes happen and with careful controlled preparation and exposure this will help our puppy grow up to be more ‘bomb proof’.
Do not think that your puppy has to meet, socialise and play with every single dog or person that they meet. In doing so, this could actually over-socialise your dog and teach them that every single dog or person that they meet they get to say hello to. This can often cause problems as they develop and grow older, such as; poor recall, lead pulling and frustration. Puppies can learn to be around other species without physically having to touch them.