What is socialisation?

I am answering a Frequently Barked Question today.

FBQ: What does socialising a puppy mean?

This is a very good question. It is a huge topic, but here is an excellent overview on the Kennel Club site. All animals, including little bipeds, need to learn the skills that they will use to interact with others and their environment. Animals generally learn what is normal in their surroundings at a fairly young age and then become fearful of unusual objects. Animals that live with humans need to accept being handled and learn to cope with all sorts of strange things.

The Kennel Club and Dogs Trust recommend the Puppy Socialisation Plan. There is a lot of information on the website, both for breeders and new owners. I found the section on the science of brain development fascinating – it explains all the key stages in development. I think the practical, weekly plans for your puppy’s socialisation will be invaluable regardless of your level of experience – you can sign up to see these online or go to the resources section and download them to print out.

Puppies playing and learning

Puppies playing and learning

Attribution: By Eva holderegger walser (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The plan covers all the important things that a puppy should become accustomed to. I would just like to say that you and the puppy should have fun doing this. Each positive experience builds your puppy’s confidence. It also increases your puppy’s trust in you, which consolidates your positive relationship with the puppy.

When you’re out and about with your puppy a little stress, or excitement, is a good thing – it’s part of the learning process. You should keep a close eye on your puppy and be prepared to cut your outing short if you see signs of the puppy becoming too stressed, or tired – it’s better to avoid problems by nipping them in the bud and try again another day.

Every time you take out a well-behaved and relaxed adult dog you reap the benefits of the time spent socialising your puppy.

See you next Wednesday!

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77 thoughts on “What is socialisation?

  1. Hey Clowie, great topic and some great info! Socializing them is SO important and I think some people!e don’t quote realize just how much pups need that!
    BYpTW, I have comp!eted my pack! We have a new addition to our family!! So excited! If you have some time I would love for you to meet him! I posted him in my blog today!
    ((Husky hugz))
    “Love is being owned by a husky”

  2. Did you know that Chihuahuas are the #2 dog in US shelters? This is a very important topic Clowie! Socialization is something much needed for Chihuahuas. Sadly, a lot of people do not take the time to put their chihuahuas through training and as such, a lot of unsocialized chihuahuas learn bad habits (as well as their owners) — and then they wonder why they act the way they do and end up in shelters This is why besides training, putting chihuahuas though socialization helps them have better behaviours with other dogs and people. I run a chihuahua/mix socialization group in the Chicago area – we have monthly meetups to socialize, play, learn, teach and help other animals in need. Most of the chihuahuas in the group have learned a lot of good habits and visits from veterinarians and information sessions have helped owners be better pet parents and learn more about the breed. For people looking to socialize their dogs with other dogs or like breeds – visit http://www.meetup.com – they have a lot of off leash play groups, events and programs for dog lovers. To check out my Chihuahua group – go to http://www.southsuburbanchihuahua.com

    • I knew there were a lot of Chihuahuas in need of homes, but I didn’t know it was quite as bad as that. I hadn’t seen that meetup site before, I did a quick search on dogs and there are groups all around the world – very useful.
      The time spent in socialising young dogs is so worthwhile.

      • I will have to do a column to expound on yours (if that is OK with you – I will reference you) for people to further socialize and also through meetup.com. I think you topic is so very important. Thanks again for bringing it to light.

        • I would be delighted! This is a topic close to my heart and I would like more people to be aware of how important it is. Let me know when you post and I’ll link to you.

  3. Great tips today Clowie! Very important to socialize our pups at a young age.

  4. Great tips and info as always Clowie. Bomb proofing pups leads to a better life for everyone. It really does take a lot of time and effort but pays off for the rest of their lives.

  5. We agree socialisation is so important and even more so in an urban environment where we all have to get along. Have a wonderful Wednesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  6. Mollie is well socialized with other dogs, she loves them but people she is nervous of, it’s the Collie . She is so highly strung. She barks at strangers,she’s a complete pain LOL xxxxoxx

    Mollie and Alfie

  7. Always good information here Clowie. I have been watching a kitten cam for quite some time now and I knew how important socialization was but after watching ten tinykittens without a mother cat and how hard the foster Mom worked to socialize them and take the feral growl out of them.. well, now I really know how important it is! Enjoy your week Clowie!

    • Thank you. The ideal window for socialising kittens closes earlier than for puppies, so they need lots and lots of attention when small. Enjoy the rest of your week!

  8. That’s excellent advice Clowie. It’s so important, especially in a time when stories of dog attacks are rife.
    I went to a puppy party when I was little to meet other pups and get some tips on how to be well socialised. Would definitely advise anyone with a puppy to go to one, so helpful.

    • Thank you, Misaki. Yes, most behaviour problems in dogs are due to insufficient positive experiences when young. We also found classes useful for socialising.

  9. You are correct, little ones need to be introduced to everything you can possibly think of so they get used to everything!

  10. Noone should ever underestimate the importance of socialising! Good post!

  11. Clowie, You continue to amaze me, thank you for continuing my education into your world. While I doubt if I will ever be in a position to just this 1st hand, it’s nice to know info when I see my biped friends walking and teaching their new friends, and learning as they will. Take care, and again thanks Bill

  12. I’m having issues with my beast.
    He was well socialized as a puppy, we would got to the park, have dogs over, he would play and share his food and toys.
    He became a “man”, and started to change, now he doesn’t like dogs.
    He’s going to rehab soon, I can’t deal with a crazy dog and chopping his “manhood” is still out of the question.
    But he sure is giving me headaches.

  13. Many thanks for this important post, Clowie. I hope all people will read it. We can avoid so much trouble and fights when we socialize our dogs. I wish the woman in our street would read it too. To lift up her dog as soon as any other dog is visible is no option. There her dog barks like a berserk and she screams like an air raid siren when other dogs jump on her….

  14. Clowie, thank you for the good important reminder. My friend Mack, a shepherd/mastiff mix, is not 8 months old and is learning after having no training for the first 5 months. Our biped needs to spend a bit more time socializing him with dogs other than is brother at another house nearby but she is making more time for him. Do you have any good lessons on teaching heeling? My complaint is in the mornings when she is on the computer, she lets Mack play jump and catch; she throws his ball up high and he leaps up and catches it and lands on the bed. I try to tell her that it isn’t good for the bed but she doesn’t care. I think they are both being quite juvenile! Rex

  15. Yay, thanks for spreading the word. I believe that if every puppy was properly socialized, we’d see far fewer given up to shelters for behavior problems. Because lots of things people have problems with are related to poor socialization — separation anxiety, fear of other people, fear of other dogs, inability to ride in a car, etc.

    Great post!

    • Thank you. I also believe that most problems are related to poor socialisation. It’s so much better to spend some time and avoid problems – it takes much longer to cure them.

  16. people should also remember that just because you have multiple puppies at the same time you still need to socialise them!!

  17. Great advice with lots of great resources in the links! It can be hard (and frustrating) to convince people to put in work early when they just want to play with their cute puppy, so the importance of this cannot be understated!

    • Thank you. I have often seen people inadvertently encouraging a puppy to do something that will be unacceptable, or even dangerous, when the puppy gets a little older. It’s so much easier to not allow the behaviour to begin with. Working with the puppy and planning positive experiences can be just as much fun as playing.

  18. Great post. Important topic. Clowie, you’re a wonderful teacher. Thank you. ps. Love the photo of the cattle dog adorable puppies. :-)

  19. So true. Socialization is very important. Maya was pretty well socialized, but because I got Pierson at an older age, he has a few social issues. He is not at all comfortable around small children. I have to pay close attention to my surroundings when I take him out to make sure no small kids run up to pet him. Luckily, many parents are good about teaching their children how to approach strange dogs.

    • It’s a shame when most issues can be avoided in the first place. It takes much more time and patience, as you know all too well, to improve on them later.

  20. Good advice for avoiding later complications.
    Costa Rican dogs seem to be much more friendly and relaxed than those I came across in France…I can walk my dogs anywhere with no worry about meeting an aggressive one.
    Lots of rushing out, barking and sniffing…and then everyone’s friends.

    • Thank you. I enjoyed travelling in France because I was allowed in most places, but I did meet one very unfriendly dog who didn’t want me in his hotel! We think it was because he’d never met a dog larger than himself, he was fine with the other dogs staying there.

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