CHENNAI : What are the things necessary to provide a healthy life for your dog? Most owners would answer nutrition, regular vaccinations or veterinary exams. Few, if any, would answer socialisation. But this is key to the overall wellness and health of dogs.Good health includes early socialisation too. Puppies need to be exposed to people, other puppies, dogs, social situations and car rides early on. This period permanently shapes his future personality and how he will react to things in his environment as an adult.
Gently exposing him to a wide variety of people, places and situations now makes a permanent difference. The idea behind socialisation is helping your puppy become acclimated to all types of sights, sounds and smells in a positive manner. Proper socialisation can prevent a dog from being always fearful of children, for example, or of riding in a car, and it will help him develop into a well-mannered, happy companion.
To a puppy, the whole world is new, strange, and unusual, so think of everything he encounters as an opportunity to make a new, positive association. Try to come up with as many different types of people, places, noises and textures as you can and help your puppy be exposed to them. While socialising should definitely include socializing with people, it should also include a lot more: floor textures, strange noises, different types of weather, odd smells.
Nearly anything can be turned into a great socialisation experience for a puppy. That means, for instance, have him walk on carpet, on tiled floor, on grass. Most importantly, when introducing all of these new experiences to your puppy, make sure he’s getting an appropriate amount of treats. Try to avoid doing too much too fast. Starting this process by taking your puppy to a huge party or a very busy public place can be overwhelming and result in a fearful response to groups of strangers in the future.
Once your puppy is used to the small amounts of stimuli, move outside of his comfort zone to expand the amount of new experiences he’ll have. Take him to a friend’s house for a puppy play date, on different streets in the neighborhood. All this exposure should take place only after he’s received his full series of puppy vaccinations.
Any time a puppy is not actively enjoying the socialisation experience, there is the potential for doing more harm than good. Does the dog have an escape route? Is the dog using the escape route repeatedly, or is he reluctant to come back to the challenge? If so, the process is probably too challenging. Is the dog coming back of his own volition? That’s a good thing, as it means you are keeping the challenge level with his curiosity. Also know when to take a step back.
When the dog is meeting a stranger or sniffing a car/ bicycle, know when to quit. Call back your pup before he gets too excited and displays frantic behavior, or before his courage fails and he finds himself facing more than he’s ready to face. Call him back and reinforce coming to you. If you don’t have enough of a recall yet, drop a series of treats and lead him back to you. If your dog needs socialisation, please provide it in the doses he requires.
Responsible pet ownership means committing to the relationship for your pet’s entire life and be responsible to his overall well-being. How your little puppy grows into an adult rests completely in your hands.
(The author is an animal lover)