While socialisation is a broad term, it essentially refers to the process of teaching your dog how to function well in today’s world.
From learning how to get along with humans and other animals, to becoming comfortable in an assortment of environments, and even adapting to new situations without fear or aggression, it is all based on the direct experience your pet will have with your help. Well socialised dogs are more confident, secure, and generally stress less, which ultimately gives them a happier and healthier life.
Is your dog social enough?
“Isn’t my puppy too young or too old to socialise?” “My dog already has issues with other dogs or people so there is no point in trying.” “My dog’s breed traditionally doesn’t do well with other dogs or breeds.” These are common excuses we have heard from pet parents over time, when it comes to socialising their dogs. However, they aren’t true, because any and every dog has the possibility and should have the opportunity to live a social life. Of course, there are always exceptions to be considered here, and can be determined with the guidance of a canine behavioural consultant.
Coming back to the point, no pet is too young or too old to socialise. Some dog trainers recommend puppy socialisation as young as three weeks, stating that it begins at home. At this stage, it is limited to people and things sharing the same living space. Post immunisation, necessary shots and of course, a ‘go ahead’ from your vet, three to four months old puppies can have the world as their open play ground. Similarly with older dogs, all you need is patience and correct guidance and the rest will follow. If your dog has had problems socialising in the past, it may be because the situation was not correctly introduced and the exposure may have been too sudden or connected with a negative experience, or simply your pet may not be feeling well at that time. You should always take professional help because socialisation is a lifelong process and does not end with your pet’s training classes.
Safe socialisation practices
Exposure to all new experiences should be positive and stress free. You can do so by following the below pointers:
Respect your pets’ feelings and space. Let them
approach new things on their own and let them take time to investigate. Don’t force or push if they are at all reluctant. This way you don’t slim your chances to try again later.
Understand what your pet is saying to you. Dogs communicate through body language and you can learn to read it over time with correct guidance.
A common practice followed by professionals during training is to set your pet up for success. Ensure all new experiences are positive, followed by positive reinforcement in the form of treats or toys. Avoid situations, people & environments that you think might result in a less-than-happy experience for your new pet.
Lastly, just have fun! Your positive attitude towards new things is important for your pet too.
A special note to all pet parents
As much as it is important for your dog to socialise, it is equally important for us as pet parents to be socially responsible. We must train our dogs, primarily with the help of experienced professionals & continue the process ourselves if we want a happy life with our pets. And we must pick up after our dogs, be it indoor or outdoor, if we want our country to be a pet-friendly one. Socially responsible pet parents along with well socialised dogs can open up many avenues & opportunities going forward for our furry favourites.
After Bandit came into our lives in 2010, we realised that a visit to the vet was the highlight of this three months old Pug’s day, as he loved meeting other pets and humans, and it was the only social place for him then. Hence, addressing the basic need for safe and fun spaces for pets in Mumbai, we ventured out with our cause to make our cities more pet-friendly, one pop-up at a time. Stuck with the dilemma of space constraints, expenses, permissions & licenses for a full time pet restaurant, we jumped at the idea of a pop-up Mutt Hutt – The Pet Café instead and haven’t looked back since February 2013, when Mumbai’s pet parents for the first time celebrated Valentine’s Day by going on a date with their dogs.
We truly believe that socialising is the key here and it’s a great place to bring your puppy to experience meeting new people, other dogs, different sights, sounds, and tastes, along with engaging games, all with the help of a certified team of professionals. It’s also a great place for prospective pet parents to understand the nature of different breeds by speaking to existing pet parents of the involvement and commitment required. We’ve even had people and kids who cannot keep pets, but really love being around them.
(Bhakti Bhukhanwala and Trupti Zaveri are co-founders of Mutt Hutt – The Pet Café in Mumbai)