Lots of people get home with their new gun dog puppy and start training them for their new life outdoors. Training your pup control and obedience is important, but a third topic is sometimes overlooked… Socialiatation.

What Is Socialisation?

Socialisation is where an owner looks for new learning experiences for their puppy (or older dog if they have not been correctly socialised). It’s about you ensuring that your dog has a chance to build positive memories in lots of different environments.  As their memory bank of experiences builds, they learn to feel safe and secure in lots of new environments. A pup’s socialisation in this window of time determines how they will respond as an adult.

The Socialisation Window

Teaching a dog to cope well with new experiences should normally be done in the first 12 to 18 weeks of its life. This is known as a pup’s critical socialisation window. It’s the time that the pup can easily build positive responses to lots of different objects, people and situations.

Pups that are not socialised tend to show undesirable behaviours towards situations that frighten or upset them. During this time, it’s important that the pup builds positive memories that they use to determine their decision-making process as they grow.

Things To Keep In Mind When Socialising Your Pup

Positive experiences are key. Be calm with your pup and allow them to explore and become comfortable in the new situation. If you try to rush your pup it will have the opposite effect and actually cause problems. Be patient, use treats and encourage your puppy to be brave. Make sure you approach the new experience slowly, and do not expect your pup to be fine after just one socialisation event.

Members can use our FREE SOCIALISATION CHECKLISTto think about the different objects and environments your pup needs socialisation too. Please also download our free Daily Log to record what socialisation situations you have been working on.

The more positive socialisation you do with your pup, the better your dog will respond to daily life. 

Our checklist has been separated into five different categories:

  • People
  • Animals
  • Noises
  • Environments
  • Objects

In each category, we have added a number of experience opportunities. Also, make sure you are frequently handling your pup. We haven’t listed handling experiences as this should be taking place with your daily grooming and health checks.

Try to make sure your pup frequently gets to experience these socialisation opportunities more than once; the more, the better. Encourage your pup to become calm and confident around as many of those experiences on the checklist as possible.

My older dog was not socialised correctly. What should I do?

Dogs that have been under-socialised tend to show socialisation problems. This can be displayed as anxiety, anger, nervousness or any other negative behaviour or emotion.

Depending on your dog’s behaviour, you may be able to gently encourage your dog into new experiences with lots of praise, treats and distractions until the dog relaxes.

For most dogs, this will take a large number of socialisation opportunities and may never be corrected. If you are unsure of how to carry out a socialisation process correctly, contact a trainer or dog behaviourist who can provide testimonials of working with nervous dogs.

Check out our Masterclass on Working With Sensitive Dogs as a starting point.

Or listen to our podcast Understanding Reactive, Fearful or Aggressive Dogs

Question Of The Week?

What are your experiences of socialisation? 

Leave your reply in the comments below.

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