What is socialisation?
Socialisation can be described as the process whereby an animal learns how to recognise and interact with its own species, i.e. dog to dog, other species such as cats and people. This interaction helps each learn the body language and communication skills of each other.
How do I ensure my dog gets sufficient socialisation?
Socialisation starts with the breeder.
Once you own a puppy you should implement your own programme, exposing your dog to as wide a range of experiences and positive encounters as is possible, be mindful though your puppy does have to receive all his injections from the vet before going out for walks, but this shouldn’t stop him being socialised with your other pets and humans.
I have an older dog, is there anything I can do for him/her?
Yes, behaviour modification and re-socialisation programmes can be implemented although the help of an experienced dog trainer. Older dogs can be desensitised to unfamiliar or frightening situations gradually, but it will never replace the benefits of early socialisation.
My dog had a bad experience, what should I do?
Do not try and comfort the dog or react fearfully yourself as you will confirm the need for fear to the dog. The dog may look to you for guidance so remain confident. The dog should be re-exposed to the situation gradually and possibly from a distance so it becomes desensitised to it. Proximity can be increased as the dogs confidence grows. De-sensitisation tapes are available for sound related phobias and should be used very quietly at first with the volume being increased as desensitisation occurs. Always praise or reward the dog for not showing fear and not reacting to the situation, or if it does react, as soon as it recovers from its fright. If your dog reacts aggressively in a situation it is fearful of then a desensitisation programme can be implemented with the help of a behaviourist or trainer.
What else might affect socialisation?
Breeding, temperament of both parents, health both currently and as a puppy, involvement in training, diet, environment in which it was raised and lives, experiences as a puppy and adult.