When people take a puppy into their family, one of the first thoughts uppermost in their mind is socialisation. This is usually interpreted as finding little friends for their ‘only child’ puppy. There is far more to socialisation than seeing the big outside world. Your puppy has just left his mother and siblings and first needs to get to know you and his new home. It’s important he knows he’s safe and understood in a home he needs to become familiar with and the people who are now his family.
So, How, When, Where And With Who Should You Socialise Your New Puppy Or Dog?
To begin with, the new puppy will have his head full of trying to understand and bond with his new human family, and this is more than enough to occupy his (rather traumatic for him) early days away from everything he has ever known.
After a few weeks he will hopefully be settling down, comfortable and secure with his new family, and ready to take on more experiences.
Are all puppies the same? Of course not, any more than all children follow the same pattern.
When Socialising Your Puppy You Need To Understand Their Personality And Character First
So, those early days and weeks alone with your puppy should give you a good idea of his personality. Is he nervous and shy, or a bit aloof and reserved, confident and gregarious, or selective with whom he befriends?
It very much depends on personality when introducing him to other dogs.
Give your puppy time to adjust and find friends of like minded and same-ish size initially
Children are happiest picking their own friends – and so are dogs. We can take a child to nursery and some will dive straight in and interact with all and sundry, but most want to take their time, watch from the safety of their parent’s legs and only start to move toward the other children when they are ready. Try to force the interaction and you will end up with a ‘cling-on’.
Even when children are happy to mingle, they will choose a friend (or friends) because they fit with them – and this attraction is often incomprehensible to their parents ‘Why him/her?’ their parents think, when it is obvious that the parental choice of friend is far more suitable!
Dogs growing up in a household of one or more other dogs tend not to need ‘outsiders’ in their lives. Often they do not need doggy chums. They are usually polite and friendly to strange dogs as the canine communication and etiquette which comes from living with other dogs are naturally established, but they rarely feel the need to strike up a game.
‘Only’ dogs are different. Some desperately seek the companionship of any dog they meet – and often get put in their place firmly by the stranger. This prompts even more frantic attempts to make them interact – causing the stranger to be even less friendly. You have to be the grownup here and move your dog away – because this kind of interaction does neither dog any good.
Is Your Dog Or Puppy Over Exuberant With Others?
These ‘over-exuberant’ puppies need a careful introduction to well-balanced (usually older) dogs, which will gently educate them in canine communication from the point where this education was curtailed by leaving their mother and siblings at an unnaturally young age. This lack of understanding of basic canine manners is usually the result of a puppy being taken from his family at WAY to young an age.
First companions must be carefully chosen. Put two mannerless youngsters together and chaos will ensue unless you monitor and step in when things get too manic. Put two mannerless youngsters whose personalities clash, together, and you will get something more dangerous than chaos.
We’ve all heard of The Lone Wolf. Some Dogs Don’t need Doggy Friends, They Need You!
Then there are the loners – or dogs which prefer the company of humans to dogs. Not all dogs are naturally gregarious, and this often causes anxiety for their humans. They want their dog to play with others and feel they are failing in some way if they are less than enthusiastic. If there are no other issues, then you probably have a natural loner – and he is quite happy being so. He may make friends with selected dogs, but he will not be the bouncing ‘Hail fellow well met’ type which humans typically expect a dog to be.
Some dogs form an unusually strong bond with their human, and they are quite happy without the company of other dogs. You are all they need – to enjoy this unusual closeness and don’t worry!
There are so many shades of grey in between the extremes, but the bottom line is to take the time to learn the personality of your dog, watch and be prepared to curtail, inappropriate interaction with other dogs, allow him to learn how to behave with strange dogs by being very pro-active, and hopefully find a few friends with dogs he likes, (and which like him), to go for fun walks and visits.
Remember Forcing Friendships Between Dogs Can Result In Problems
As with humans, you cannot force a friendship, so be aware of this and choose your dog’s doggy friends wisely – based on what he is telling you, not the ones you think he should like just because you like their humans.
Be Mindful That Your Dog Or Puppy, May Not Like Large Groups Puppy Classes
Whatever I say, I know many people will take their new puppy to puppy classes.
If this is your choice, please choose wisely! Be mindful of your puppies own needs Pick a class where there are no more than four puppies at a time, AND where the person who runs the class has insisted on puppies of roughly the same age and size. A Great Dane and a Chihuahua may be the same age but …..! Also they do not need structured ‘training’ in this environment. You are his best teacher when it comes to his fitting in to your human world, and you can do this naturally at home where there is calm and no distractions.
Its Good To Remember Your Puppy Does Not Have A Problem Until We Force An Issue
Choose a socialisation rather than training class – and let them learn canine communication and etiquette through play! Gentle education to guide the puppy through his life rather than a protocol to try ensure issues don’t arise.
Could your child be expected to learn his alphabet surrounded by excited children at Frankie’s Fun Factory?
No? Well, neither can your puppy, so don’t expect it of him!
Co-Author of “Parenting Your New Puppy” with Caroline Spencer