Socialising your puppy is the most important thing you can do when acquiring a new furry family member. Correct and dedicated socialisation and training will help ensure your pet is well-behaved and good-natured—something that’s not only important for family dynamic, but also to avoid relinquishment. Bad behavior is the number one reason dogs are surrendered to shelters, so it’s vital to give them new and varied experiences in their first year of life.
The best time to socialise your new pup is between the ages of 3 and 12 weeks—after 18 weeks (or four months), they become more difficult to handle; but have no fear: old dogs certainly can be taught new tricks. But make sure to reward your pet’s good behaviour with treats and positive reinforcement!
Following these handy hints can help ensure your pip will be a great, life-long companion!
Take them to puppy school
Classes are a great way to teach your puppy commands and proper interactions, as well as increase responsiveness and increase your bond with them.
If you’re unsure of where to take your new pup, ask your vet—they’ll know reputable classes in the area. But remember, you can always ask to observe a class first and see if it’s the right fit for you and your furry family.
Take them on walks
The world can be a scary place! But exposing your puppy to it can help make them much more comfortable, giving them a better temperament in later life. There’s all kinds of new sights, smells, sounds and sensations, so be sure to take them to a variety of places—like the beach, park, or even down the street. As they become more comfortable, gradually increase new encounters; you’ll help make their world a little less scary.
Meet new people
Teach your pet to enjoy meeting new people! And make sure they’re a variety of ages, sizes and genders. If your dog only hangs out with one person, they may grow wary of anyone new—and the last thing you want is your dog to nip someone out of fear.
Make sure, once they become more comfortable, that they’re handled, held and cuddled by as many people, remembering to touch different places (like their paws, tummy, sides and ears) to make sure they’ll be comfortable with all pats later in life.
Meet new animals
Just like with people, to make sure your pup gets the best social skills, you need to introduce them to a wide variety of animals, breeds and ages—from cats, to dogs, to birds, to rats, to even farm animals, your dog will experience the benefits of positive curiosity if you teach them to be friendly and engaged with new creatures.
However, keep in mind that not all other animals will be friendly—so use caution, and keep a firm handle on the situation, watching out for signs of animal discomfort on either side. Remember that every dog is different, and that a shy pup might need just a little more time to adjust to new experiences.
Expose them to new things
Make sure your puppy experiences all the facets of life, so they don’t fear it and become destructive: trust me, it makes your life much easier when your dog doesn’t try to destroy the $800 vacuum cleaner, or run away with people’s walking crutches.
While you don’t want to overwhelm them, you do need to expose them to the changes life can throw: so re-arrange your furniture, use the lawn mower, rustle plastic bags, use blenders, play the TV, music and video games—and if kids are in the picture, expose them to audio of kids noises, like crying and screaming, so when the time comes, they don’t freak out.
Get your pet used to being bathed and brushed: it will make their future care much easier. As always, using treats can make life much easier, and get them excited to have their nails clipped or be examined (good practise for future vet visits!).
Give them alone time
To avoid future separation anxiety, give your pet their alone time and teach them to be functional without you.
Food bowl training
All training will be beneficial to your dog, but this handy trick will help stop your pet from guarding their food, and feeling anxious (or scared) if someone approaches them whilst eating. When your pet is eating, walk up and drop a treat into their bowl, and walk away. Repeat this once or twice a meal, until the pup is excited for people approach: because there’s nothing worse than a hungry, scared dog.
I’m a journalist with a passion for all things wacky and strange. Like me on Facebook (Zoe Simmons Journalism) and follow me on Twitter (@ItBeginsWithZ) for more!