Importance of Socialisation
Socialising your pet from a young age is the best way to help them become a confident, outgoing companion. Kittens learn how to socialise by 7 weeks of age. This short window makes them very reliant on their mothers for teaching them how to behave around other animals, people and new places. Puppies have a slightly longer socialisation period, up to 16 weeks of age.
During this period it is very important to help your puppy grow into a confident adult dog by exposing them to lots of new experiences, including those laid out below.
Greeting other animals
The prime period of socialisation for puppies coincides with the period of time in which they do not yet have full protection from their immunisations. So, it's very important that socialisation is done in safe locations. Avoid areas of high dog populations, such as dog parks and other off leash areas.
Puppy preschools offer safe, supervised environments where your pup can meet other pups and learn some basic obedience skills also. Most local vets and dog clubs host these courses regularly throughout the year. Ensure you book early so your pup doesn't miss out on learning during their short socialisation window. These courses are a great building block for your puppy. Together you will develop skills for training and improving your dog's behaviour.
Puppy Preschool and Obedience Training teach you great tools for getting your dog's attention and gives you the opportunity to reward and reinforce good behaviour. It's also a good way to help you bond with your dog and understand their behaviour. The skills taught through these programs lay the foundation for a healthy relationship between you and your pet.
If you have friends or family with fully vaccinated, well socialised and healthy dogs, you can organise a play date with them. Just be sure to supervise the play very closely and remove your pup from the situation if they are becoming overwhelmed. It's very important that all interactions at this age are positive, as your pup can remember any negative experiences well into adulthood.
Along with other dogs, introducing your pup to different species like cats from a young age will ensure they are not fearful or aggressive towards them as they mature. Ensure all interactions are mutual and not forced, with plenty of escape routes should either animal feel overwhelmed.
Meeting new people
Just like meeting other animals, introducing new people to your pup should always be done gradually to ensure they are not overwhelmed.
Expose your pup to as many different types of people as you can during that first 16 weeks of their life, in a safe and positive way. Introducing your pup to the postie, people in uniform, older people and children (under intense supervision) in a very positive way can help them to become well-adjusted canine citizens.
Introducing new sounds and scenarios
Many dogs develop phobias to loud noises like vacuum cleaners, motorbikes or storms. Exposing them to these from a young age in a calm and encouraging manner with lots of treats will help to prevent fear behaviour.
Show them your vacuum cleaner and lawn mower or any other noisy appliance when they are turned off. Then from a distance briefly switch them on when you have your dog's attention and reward them with a treat if they do not react. If they're startled, occupy them with another activity and take the appliance further away before turning it on. Eventually you can teach your pet to get closer and closer. This tool can be used to help your pet overcome any new fear.
Socialisation is a critical skill your pet needs from a young age. Showing your pet lots of novel things in a safe environment while they're young helps them grow into happy, well adjusted animals that are able to accompany you on all of life's adventures.