Socialisation with other dogs is one of their basic needs. As explained by the the RSPCA, socialisation is critical to their wellbeing. In the wild, this happens from birth. Usually puppies have a bundle of five or six brothers and sisters in their litter. As they grow and develop, socialisation with other dogs and pack members develops. In domestic environments, this need for socialisation cannot be ignored, and one of the main ways to provide this is through engaging dog walking services.
Dogs are skilled communicators. They use a range of body language and verbal cues. They use scent and smell on a scale us humans can only begin to imagine. However, we shouldn't underestimate its importance. Dogs set and maintain boundaries between themselves and even if we would view bottom sniffing as breaking a boundary, it is crucial to dog's understanding each other and maintaining boundaries. In the UK, reputable breeders ensure puppies don't leave their mum until they are at least 8 weeks old. However, up until 12 weeks is a crucial time for their socialisation development, so their new human owners need to take on the part of that role. Once vaccinations allow for going out and about, which is after the second vaccination and usually between 12-14 weeks, that socialisation development needs to continue right into adulthood. Is dog socialisation down to training classes alone, or are other methods important? Let's explore.
Yes, training classes are one weapon in your arsenal towards socialisation, but really your main focus for socialising your dog with other dogs should be their daily walk.
The daily dog walk or two isn't just about exercise. It's important for socialisation with other dogs too. The walk is about being comfortable and at ease with the world around them, such as knowing how to handle that exuberant bounder coming your way, as well as growing in socialisation confidence. We know that the demands of life often mean that fitting in the daily walk, certainly when there are other hounds around, can be a tall order. By using our dog walking in North London service, we make sure that all the dogs in our care get exceptional socialisation opportunities, and even make good friends.
Of course, we humans are creatures of habit. Even if you do succeed in shoehorning in a regular walk, it is exactly that - regular. It usually happens in the same place at the same time. This limits socialisation opportunities. Where possible, you should be aiming to expose your dog, especially when younger, to a wide variety of other pooches. To do this, vary the time and location of your walks. Dog walking services should offer a mixture of walks at different times of day to help meet this need.
In order to maximise their socialisation potential, you need to reward good socialisation. Try not to tug on their lead, but instead reward good behaviour. Have a handful of treats ready on walks for exactly this purpose. Every time you witness successful interaction with a new tail-wagger, give your dog a treat.
While socialisation with other dogs is essential, it's not all or nothing. Different dogs find it easier than others to be led by your dog's behaviour. Ensure interactions are frequent but are kept at the right amount of time for your dog. When meeting a new dog for the first time, be cautious, and monitor the introduction carefully. Look out for signs of friendliness in the other party before encouraging introduction.
It can be tempting to back off and discontinue the efforts if your young dog isn't quite performing up to scratch or handling socialisation well. Conversely, this is often exactly the opposite of what you should be doing to help your pup. If socialisation is proving tricky, this is exactly when you should be turning to experienced trainers and dog walking services for some help.