We are seeing a good number of new puppies starting at DogHQ. Most new dog owners these days are very familiar with the term “socialisation” and are keen to have a sociable dog to live a long happy life with. But how many truly understand the meaning of this simple term? At DogHQ, we can help you with dog socialisation but there is going to be much more to your dogs life than other dogs.
There have been a number of scientific studies performed to enable us to better understand the key factors that influence a dogs development.
In 1959, C.J. Pfaffenberger and J.P. Scott noticed that puppies being raised to be guide dogs were more likely to fail their training if they were kept in kennels for longer and missed some early socialisation. Then in 1961, Daniel Freedman, John King and Orville Elliott published research on puppies in Science. They said, “the net result suggests that the seventh week of age was the period in which the pups were most receptive to socialisation, and that 2½ to 9-13 weeks of age approximates a critical period for socialisation to human beings.”
Much has changed and improved since these studies which was focused on socialisation with humans. These days it is not normal for a dog to not grow up around humans from a very young age so this is less of an issue but the development period remains a critical window of opportunity.
The concept of socialising a puppy well will involve pleasant experiences with unknown dogs, surfaces, places, anything that puppy might come across as an adult. It should start in the home of the breeder, or the foster home if it is a rescue and you should be prepared to carry on and do lots of socialisation yourself.
In her book Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson says “it’s advisable to go way overboard covering all the bases before the socialisation window closes, especially for spookier breeds or individuals. This means exposing the puppy to as wide a social sphere as possible in terms of human age groups, sexes, sizes, shapes, colours and gaits. The experiences should be positive (play, treats, nothing scary) and include a wide variety of patting, handling and movement by the humans. It also means getting the puppy used to anything it may have to encounter in later life, such as car rides, veterinary exams (make the first one or two fun rather than scary), cats, traffic, soccer games, elevators and pointy sticks.”
There is a balance to be struck in socialising puppies to prevent future behaviour problems and protecting them from disease when they are not fully immunised. This is something to discuss with your vet. Interesting, the AVSAB (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior) actually have a position statement on this precise topic which says, “Because the first three months are the period when sociability outweighs fear, this is the primary window of opportunity for puppies to adapt to new people, animals and experiences. Incomplete or improper socialisation during this important time can increase the risk of behavioural problems later in life including fear, avoidance, and/or aggression. Behavioural problems are the greatest threat to the owner-dog bond… behavioural issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.”
So arm yourself with plenty of time, lots of treats and go experience the world with your puppy. It do wonders for your lead walking practice and might just improve your own sociability too!
Dog HQ, 5 Goldfield, Wairau Valley 09 44 22 365 doghq.co.nz www.facebook.com/doghq