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Combining Socialisation and Habituation

Combining Socialisation and Habituation with Training - the Secrets to Bomb proofing Your Puppy and Teaching Them to be Well Behaved.

When we welcome a new puppy into our home our role as a new puppy owner is one of an educator. Assuming you have sourced a well bred, genetically sound pup: how confident and well adjusted the puppy develops, is really down to you. 

It is essential for a puppy to learn to adjust to new environments and most importantly learn how to deal with things or situations he is unsure of.

Habituation and socialisation refers to the processes of exposing and getting a puppy used to everything she may encounter in her life. In effect you are bomb proofing  her so she develops into a confident sociable pet. The best time to start, to ensure the best results, is during what is termed as the optimal socialisation period, which refers to the time the puppy is 4-12wks old.  It’s pretty common knowledge that you have to socialise a young pup, however, it is imperative that you continue to socialise your puppy right through to adult hood, so that you end up with a confident dog .In fact, research has shown that if a pup is socialised initially then has no exposure to new places etc it will be virtually as fearful and unsure as a pup who has never had the early socialisation!

Before a puppy is fully vaccinated, I carry them around getting them used to new places. This means they are safe but still experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of everyday life. It is a good idea to start in quiet places and build up to busier ones. The most important thing is that these experiences are positive and you don’t scare them. Regular short sessions will form the foundations to ensure your puppy develops into a happy and confident adult. 

Once a pup is fully vaccinated you will no longer need to carry them and instead, they can walk on lead. This can be quite scary at first for some pups. It is important that you don’t overwhelm them, consider things from your pups perspective and how different everything looks to them. 

At this stage, although you will have got them familiar to being on a lead they will not have had the opportunity to have learned how to walk on lead- in other words not to pull. What happens during this period will determine whether you end up with a dog who understand to remain on a slack lead or one who drags you along. It is so easy to create problems which can cause us frustration and the dog confusion later as they mature into a bigger stronger animal.

Puppies not only need to experience life but also learn how to act and behave appropriately. By combining the socialisation sessions with training, you can ensure you will develop a confident well mannered dog.

 A common mistake made is to allow the pup to go where they want and follow them around. Owners often do this because they believe that they should allow the pup to go and investigate everything as part of socialisation. You can see the conflict here, on one hand you want the puppy to investigate and approach things confidently on the other you want them to not to learn to pull. To avoid this happening teach the puppy that they can’t go wherever they want when they want whilst the lead is attached but importantly they can explore on your invitation.

 Don’t worry if you don’t get things perfect to start with, the main thing to remember is to be consistent. This is vital as it prevents confusion and a consistent approach will help instil confidence in your pup.

When walking where there are other dogs on lead, I teach my pups that they should ignore them unless I say they can mix. Why? Over the years I have witnessed many new puppy owners allowing their pup to drag them up to other pups/dogs on lead and then proceed to jump around them excitedly. This incidentally is normal puppy behaviour-however the problem comes when puppy grows and drags the owner to every dog they see. this behaviour is certainly not desirable! The unfortunate thing is that owners then change the goal posts getting cross with their dog yet their poor dog is not being naughty the owner has taught them its ok to act this way! 

A pup also needs to learn that they should only greet people on invitation. The dog who walks where there are other people who attempts to jump up or look for food is a nuisance.  It is far easier to teach a puppy to not jump up when greeting someone than to teach an adult dog  who launches itself through the air jumping up to greet people to stop. 

Learn just because there are fast moving or exciting things happening they don’t need to get excited instead they will be rewarded for being calm.

By spending the time teaching your puppy the skills of a well mannered dog the rewards are huge- a dog who is a pleasure to own and share fun times together.