Why dog socialisation is important

Socialising your dog doesn’t begin and end with puppy school. Dogs are social creatures. They want to spend time with their four legged friends playing in the park and making the most out of being a part of groups. How well socialised a dog is can set the parameters for their behaviour as well as their mood. That’s why it’s important to make dog socialisation a priority.

Here are some of the ways you can socialise your dog well from puppy to old age

The benefits of dog socialisation

dog socialisation wahroonga - fox valley animal hospital

Photo by Matt Jones via Unsplash

Throughout their life, we expose dogs to new places, people and other pets often without even realising. This can be taxing for a dog. Especially if they haven’t been socialised much as a pup.

If you think about it from a dog’s perspective, the world can be a big, overwhelming place. Helping your dog understand new doesn’t mean scary is important.

Feeling supported, autonomous and happy to explore this new world gives your puppy courage. It helps build confidence and create trust between you and your new four legged friend.

That trust is vital. Your dog will take micro-expressions and signals from you. And they’ll use them to inform how they should respond to a given environment.

By you exposing your puppy to a variety of new places, people and experiences, they learn from you that new is OK. That new might actually be a whole lot of fun. And this in turn helps your dog go with the flow and adjust later on in life.

Set a great foundation with puppy school

One of the first places your puppy learns positive interactions is with their brother and sisters in the litter. Moving away from this environment and to a human family can be an adjustment.

That’s why Puppy School is a great way to bridge the gap.

Puppy School gives new owners advice and a refresher on looking after a young dog. It also gives your new puppy the chance to socialise in a positive way in a safe environment with other doggies.

This early stage contact where the puppies learn lessons teaches them social behaviour. That sets the foundation for their interactions with humans and other canines.

In Puppy School, your puppy learns to play nice and to listen.  They start thinking about the positive rewards of engaging in good behaviour through praise and treats. And that vital bond of trust starts to grow.

That’s why we recommend all new puppies to Fox Valley Animal Hospital undergo Puppy School with Hornsby Dog Training Club

It is the bedrock of great puppy socialisation.

Dog socialisation at home

Dog socialisation doesn’t begin and end at Puppy School. In fact, dogs are particularly vulnerable at around 8 months to 2 years of age of developing worries and fears.

Change is stressful to dogs. They much prefer routine. So if big changes occur during that 8 month to 24 month period, it can give a good dog the wobbles.

For example, dogs are not a fan of moving house. So do what you can at that time to help them adjust. Let them get re-centred with their toilet area and where they sleep. Help them to explore the backyard and the new neighbourhood. Stagger these journeys and always remain positive.

Be mindful that a new home or even a holiday stay can make your dog a little confused. Don’t leave them for long stretches in a completely unfamiliar environment.

A stressed dog may test the fences more than usual to get away. Or they may resort to digging up grass or destructive behaviours in an effort to lower their anxiety.

Instead, introduce them slowly to the new house or backyard or holiday stay.

Give your dog time to adjust and use positive reinforcements, treats and play to help them.

Companionship and the wilds of Wahroonga and beyond

dog daycare sydney - fox valley animal hospitalBe mindful that your dog needs company. Spend time with them as they grow up so they get accustomed to your family. Include your dog where possible, however have a healthy balance. Allow your dog to spend time by themselves and be happy with their own company as well. This can help to prevent separation anxiety issues when you are not with them.

Help bridge the understanding of your world by allowing social interactions. Expose your dog to other people, cafes, and environments and so on.

And make sure they get regular socialisation with other dogs. Take time out to visit the off leash areas. Take them for walks. Arrange doggy play dates. Consider doggy daycare so that your dog is not left alone for long stretches and to help with that socialisation.

Don’t think the journey stops as they grow out of being a puppy. Continue the process of exposing your dog to new environments and ideas in a positive way throughout their life.

If you can take your dog and it will be a positive situation, do take them.

That way, the dog facing new things feels confident, prepared and can rely on you to set the tone as opposed to their fears.

Acknowledge that big changes influence your dog’s behaviour

Dogs love routine. They love knowing where they live, who lives with them and what to expect.  So if your circumstances change, allow for your dog to adjust.

If a pet dies or a family member leaves home, use more TLC than normal. Our dogs grieve losing members of their pack. They may not understand a family member has moved away for work or to study. Divorce and relationship breakups can be confusing for a dog. And they definitely feel the absence of someone’s passing.

It’s important to return to a state of positive reinforcement if your dog’s behaviour may be influenced by a change in circumstances. Again, focus on positive dog socialisation. Help them understand they still have family and they are still connected.

Use play, positive reinforcement, praise and TLC to help your pet through changes and loss. It will probably help you, too.

Dog socialisation is about sending the right messages

We know it’s hard not to get anxious on your dog’s behalf, but don’t forget our dogs pick up on our movements, moods and micro-expressions. Even the most well socialised dog can pick up on your moments of doubt and hesitation.

So when you are out and about with your dog, remember these simple dog socialisation tips:

  • Don’t over tighten the leash. A tight leash sends a distinct message to your dog. It restricts their movement and lets them know you are physically tensing up. It’s only natural they will follow suit.
  • Don’t punish a dog who growls. Dog fights and mauling do not come out of nowhere. Dogs let us know they are unhappy. An unhappy dog growls, tenses, snaps, and puts their tail straight in the air and generally taking on on-guard stance. What your dog is trying to communicate is they are not happy with the contact. You need to make changes so their space is respected. This is far better than telling them they can’t express themselves.
  • Do reward positive behaviour. If your dog is skittish at the park and another dog approaches, call them to you and reward with a treat and praise until the other dog passes. If you are going somewhere new, take a favourite toy to distract your dog and to help build a positive association.
  • Work with your dog and take your time. Teaching or retraining a dog to socialise well takes time. Build up to adventures through understanding your dog. If you have a tired dog who wants a nap, don’t expect them to be the belle of the ball.

Want more tips on how to socialise your puppy to a positive adult dog?

You know what to do! Give the gang at Fox Valley Animal Hospital a call. We can help with simple techniques, Puppy Class and a whole lot more.  We also have a professional relationship with animal behaviourists in Wahroonga, Hornsby and Sydney that can help with trickier dog socialisation situations.

Call us for advice on dog socialisation and all aspects of canine care today on (02) 9489 4805.

About the Author
Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.