How important is puppy socialisation?
There is a saying that ‘there are no bad dogs, only bad owners’ and a recent study by the PDSA seems to give weight to that idea.
The first ever comprehensive measure of animal wellbeing in the UK has been carried out by the organisation and the results have been published in the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report.
More than 11,000 pet owners were surveyed and the findings for dogs and their behaviours were particularly revealing.
Everyone knows that aggression and destructive behaviour by dogs can have serious consequences. The report found that more than 165,000 dogs show aggression towards people on a weekly basis in the UK, with 5% showing aggression towards other pets and 8% being guilty of growling or snarling.
Animal Behaviourist David Ryan, chair of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors explained:
“Many serious problems such as overaggressive behaviour and separation distress can be traced back to the early experiences of puppies. Considerately exposing puppies to the right kind of experiences is the most useful advice I can give breeders and owners who want a well-balanced adult dog”.
The way puppies learn to interact with humans and other animals is by a process called socialisation.
Socialising dogs means getting them used to everyday sights and sounds, some of which may initially startle or scare them. Other activities such as travelling in a car or meeting other dogs are also important aspects of the overall training regime.
The PDSA study revealed that 26% of owners got their dog from a rescue or re-homing centre so didn’t know how it had been socialised while 25% of owners who had their dog as a puppy did not train it adequately.
Puppy training is one of the most important stages of a dog’s life and the socialisation involved is a key element in producing a happy, healthy, well-adjusted adult canine. The adage that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ is untrue so it’s never too late to train your dog. However, younger canines and puppies can usually pick things up more easily.
A good class uses reward-based training and does not use water pistols, rattle cans or other aggressive dominance/submission style methods. Punishment such as shouting, hitting or smacking is always counterproductive too.
Members of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers only use reward-based methods so that is a good place to start looking for a class. Reward-based training is kind and effective as offering something that your dog really likes, such as food treats, and praising them will reinforce good behaviour and achieve excellent results.
You don’t need to enrol your dog into a class as training can easily be done in the home. Good tips include not making training sessions too long and keeping everything fun and positive using the reward based system. There should be a focus on training for one command at a time and when your dog has learnt it you can move on to another.
A new command may take lots of repetition and patience but the rewards will always be worth it.