Proper socialisation of young dogs – part 1

With many of the dogs I work with, their problems stem from inadequate socialisation when they were at the critical age of 5-16 weeks. This lack of socialisation doesn’t become apparent until your dog is around 5-8 months old which is when your pup enters the second fear phase of it’s life. Your previously friendly, devil-may-care pup can then become a shivering shell of his puppy self.

Some dogs, such as the more robust breeds such as Labradors and Staffordshire Bull Terrier can socialise themselves. I say can, and not do, because while some individuals within these breed can, many can’t, so our socialisation should be deliberate, active and ongoing well into the dog’s adolescence and early adulthood. For some of the smaller breeds, this means at least until the dog is 2 years old and for the larger breeds such as Rottweillers, Dobermanns, Mastiff breeds and German Shepherds, this should continue until the dog is at least 3 years old. For breeds like Basenjis, Akitas and the livestock guardians, we need to be even more deliberate as these types of breeds can have a tendency to be a little more standoffish than others. Of course, I am talking in broad, general terms here and there are always exceptions to these statements.

Your pup needs to be used to being handled in a positive way by many people during the weeks 5-12 after birth. Your breeder should have done their part in this process with the pup having met at least 100 people from 5-8 weeks old. People attend the breeders home, remove there outdoor shoes and wash their hands to reduce the risk of parvo and distemper. The pup is handed round the visitors with his dinner and kibble is given each time her paws, mouth, ears, tail and genitals are handled. Men give a few more pieces of kibble and kids give liver treats. That way, the dog learns that being handled is a good thing, women are good, men give better treats than women and kids give the best treat of all.

The pup should be used to all household noises. This should start by the breeder from birth so that when the pup opens her eyes and ears, household noises such as vacuum cleaners, electric drills, TVs music etc are the norm.

When the pup goes to her home, the new owners continue this. The figure to aim for is 100 different people by the breeder from 5-8 weeks old, 100 different people by the new owner from 8-12 weeks old and 25 new people per week until the dog is 2 or 3 years old. The goal is that every new person gives the dog a piece of kibble or two.

In part 2, I’ll outline the necessary steps to take to ensure your dog is friendly with other dogs.

3 thoughts on “Proper socialisation of young dogs – part 1

  1. Beautifully written with very specific advice that if taken will result in the best dog ever. Dogs that are given this type of attention grow into very special individuals that are able to bond with people at a different level then the average under socialized dog. In my training practice I feel like a broken record repeating how important this is . The Golden Retriever puppies I have raised go to their new homes with this excellent start and we are extremely fussy about the folks that adopt them. The size of the binder we send home with them to assist them in puppy raising keeps growing over the years :). I hope that folks who read this post realize that forward investment will yield 12 plus years of pay off. Do it now, don’t wait :)!

  2. I love what you say and would love every breeder to use ur philosphy from the very start of having a dog in their family perhaps then we would not have so many dogs abandonded or can it be just that the right family does not get the right dog not the dogs fault perhaps the family who are not prepared to work with the dog to enable them to have a loving and such a fulfilling relationship with their dog

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