How important is it to have your dog properly socialised? Well in our opinion socialising your dog is as important as the food your dog eats every day. Dogs learn behaviour through dog socialisation.
Dog Socialisation – A life long development
There is a short period during the initial stages of a puppy’s life that is crucial to the long term psychology of the dog. This period is roughly between the first few weeks until a few months old. This does not mean that older dogs cannot learn social skills. However in the early stages of life, the effects of proper socialisation carry more weight. It is extremely important that dogs experience different positive experiences. This helps to develop confident, friendly and relaxed dogs. Puppies that are not socialised properly can grow up to be scared and prone to panic when their usual environment changes. Such puppies can develop aggressive tendencies. In such instances the dogs would not be intrinsically aggressive but the aggression comes out as a result of the state of panic that the dog would be in.
A study which was carried out by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine found that dogs are 580 times more likely to end up with aggression issues when not properly socialised during the early stages of life.
Dog Socialisation – The Basics
To many dog owners socialising their dog just means letting it around other dogs. Although true it is just part of the whole dog socialisation process. So without going into extreme detail let us discuss more about this topic.
In order to begin to understand we must first start by looking at the life of a dog from the dog’s point of view. In a normal situation a dog will encounter three main aspects in life:
It is very important that we take these three main points into consideration from a dog socialisation point of view.
Dog Socialisation – Other Dogs
Dogs will meet other dogs as us humans meet other humans all the time. For us humans it is very important to be able to function in society and we learn how to do so from a very young age. In our case we receive the first lessons of life from our parents. Dogs are exactly the same. When puppies are born it is the mother who will give the first lessons of life. Therefore it is of utmost importance that we give puppies enough time with their mothers. The longer we leave puppies with the mother, the more they learn and the better they develop.
The rule of thumb is that dogs should be left with the mother for a minimum of 12 weeks before being separated. Our philosophy at Pet Sitting Malta is a bit different. Although we agree that in the majority of cases 12 weeks are adequate, we believe that this can vary. Not all dogs develop at the same rate and not all dogs have the same learning ability. Some may take longer than others. However definitely do not separate puppies from the mother before 12 weeks of age.
Although the crucial time for socialisation is during puppyhood, it is not enough. As dogs grow up they still need socialisation with other dogs to continue building their character. It is very important to allow your dog to interact with other balanced dogs. A very good activity is to to join other fellow dog owners for structured dog walks.
If you are living in Malta there is a very good Facebook group called Malta Dog Trekking. We strongly suggest to join this group. The idea of this group is to bring dog owners together. Members of the group can propose walks and others can join in with their dogs. Both our dogs Lucky and Lulu gained a lot from the walks organised through this group. There are other Maltese dog related groups but none compare to Malta Dog Trekking.
Dog Socialisation – Other People
A good chunk of the interactions that dogs have on a daily basis is with us humans. It is our duty as their owners to make sure that our dogs are exposed as much as possible to our world. It is important to expose dogs to all kinds of people. Regular exposure to people will result in a calmer dog around people.
A good tip is to keep some treats with you and when your dog is interacting positively with a person, you reward the behavior. You can also allow the person to give the treat. Every human interaction that the dog goes through must be a positive one.
Avoid crowds and exposing your dog to unnecessary loud people and people who do not radiate a good vibe.
Dog Socialisation – Our Lifestyle
It is very important that we expose our dogs to our lifestyle as much as possible. When a dog is used to your lifestyle it makes it easier to take him out with you. This is a very beneficial thing because you get to have the dog with you in many places and at the same time your dog will have a better life full of activities. Activities can vary in nature depending on your lifestyle. You can involve your dog in sports, hobbies, leisure, social gatherings etc.