Often we hear, “My dog is great with humans, but he doesn’t take to other dogs that well.” This is most often because there is a culture of acquiring dogs but not consistently nurturing them and not knowing the proper ways to do the same. To remain healthy, happy and peaceful dogs need to be socialised sufficiently from an early age.
What is socialisation?
Socialisation, as a term, is not the same for humans as is dogs. In the case of humans, only interacting with fellow humans is often perceived as socialisation. But since the dogs are meant to comply in our habitats, all forms of exposure to stimuli are counted as socialisation.
Socialisation means exposing your dog to a plethora of new stimuli like objects, sounds, humans, dogs and other small animals. The main aim is to make the dog more comfortable in the environment we wish for them to live in with us. We can never guarantee that the dog will be sensitised with everything he is to encounter in the future but more socialisation always ensured the dog will be more confident in the future in many scenarios.
Why it’s important?
For a dog to be comfortable in their human habitat, we need to interact with them daily and set out a plan of action where they get to meet young children, friendly dogs of the neighbourhood, adults and other pets. Additionally, exposing them to new sounds and sights like doorbells, umbrellas, hats, wheelchair, etc would be an added benefit for them to have a stable temperament.
A well-socialised dog is calm, even-tempered, friendlier and generally happier. We also ensure the dog does not grow up to be shy, anxious, nervous, timid or aggressive in any way if regular socialisation is practiced from the beginning.
The age old ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate prevails in this context very appropriately. ‘Nature’ of a dog would be their genetics and breeding. Even the well-tempered inheritance of a dog can be compromised if left chained at home all day and having never socialised your pet. On the contrary, even the most temperamental or preconceived breeds can be trained to behave better and control their temperament if regularly socialised with humans, pets, things and activities.
Tips for socialising
Here are some suggestions from a dog training enthusiast for pet parents to socialise their pets in urban lifestyles:
- Most effective age for puppies is 4-12 weeks. This is when they learn the most and go through their first ‘fear period’.
- Introducing the dog to one new experience every day can be the most effective strategy to follow.
- Make sure the dog meets and plays with at least 3-4 different pets every week who are not regular pack members.
- Allow dog to be handled by young children and promote feeding and sharing of toys to the young visitors at home. This also helps in educating and motivating children to handle dogs appropriately. But always supervise them.
- Ensure regular reinforcement in the form of praise during all these encounters so the dog associates the experiences with happiness.
Ideas for socialising
Seeing that human lifestyles have developed to an overwhelming pace where most people do not have time for themselves during the week, let alone their dogs; all these things may sound time consuming to many. Here are some ideas that pet parents in cities can try for a more joyous socialisation journey with their pets.
- Play Dates: Call over a dog from your friend circle or neighbourhood.
- Group Class: Join your local obedience instructor for training classes in groups where your puppy gets to socialise and enjoy the training.
- Dog Parties: Throw parties on regular occasions inviting all dogs with dog friendly pleasantries like cakes, treats, swimming pool, etc.
- Dog Parks: Dog parks are still not a very prominent occurrence in India but do book a place in your neighbouring parks for a highly enjoyable romp for your pooches.
- Involve Your Dog: Try and take your dog along to as many new places as possible such as to the market, in your car, to open fields, etc. This will also give you a chance to strengthen obedience of your dog.