Socialising Your Puppy
Socialisation is a vital part in the upbringing of puppies and will prevent certain behavioural problems later in life. Pets that are poorly socialised and habituated live a life of fear.
At the start of their lives, all animals go through what is known as a ‘sensitive development period’. During this time, they encounter the world for the first time – and learn to accept what they find.
In puppies, this period starts at birth and lasts until about 14 weeks of age. Anything a puppy experiences during that time will become part of its natural order of things. After that age, unfamiliar objects and experiences can cause a fearful response (sometimes extremely fearful) and can ultimately lead to aggression.
It is important, therefore, that the owner introduces his or her puppy to as much of puppiesthe environment and lifestyle as possible, as soon as possible.
Learning to interact normally with adults, children, other dogs and pets is called socialisation.
The experience of household noises like appliances, cars, the countryside and city – becoming accustomed to a wide range habitats and environments – is called habituation.
Why Socialisation and Habituation for Your New Puppy is Important
More young adult dogs are euthanased because of behavioural problems than die from the diseases we vaccinate against. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these behavioural problems are brought about by poor socialisation.
For example, if a puppy has never met a postman, or a child, and encounters one of these for the first time later in life, it can become extremely fearful. A natural response of a fearful dog, if it has no other means of escape, is aggression.
Proper habituation helps prevent similar problems. Imagine trying to take a dog who has never encountered a car on a journey – the poor animal will be sick with fear, and may become aggressive.
And, if a puppy has not been accustomed to separation from its owners during the sensitive period, it may, in later life, bark, whine, lose toilet control or be destructive whenever it is left alone.