How to: socialise your puppy
PUBLISHED: 16:09 05 January 2021 | UPDATED: 16:21 05 January 2021
How do I socialise my puppy? What’s the best way of ensuring he gets on with other dogs in later life?
Q: We have recently acquired a new Labrador puppy and we want to socialise her with other dogs. What’s the best way to do this?
HOWARD KIRBY replies: Socialisation is such an important part of a young dog’s life, so it’s really important that owners get it right. You should build a network of friends with suitable dogs that your puppy can mix with. Other members of the puppy’s litter are the obvious first choice, but regular contact is only possible if you live close to each other. Invite people with well-balanced dogs over to your house and allow the dogs to socialise for short periods of time. It’s important that you don’t just socialise a puppy with other puppies; they need to mix with dogs of all different types, breeds and characters.
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Whenever you mix a puppy with an adult dog, there is always a risk. My advice is to mix puppies with a bitch that has had a couple of litters and is an experienced mother. She will know how to manage a young pup that will inevitably come flying in with its teeth. A well-balanced bitch will have the skill and patience to tolerate, and reprimand, any excessive and over-enthusiastic biting. She will tell the pup off, leaving it in no doubt that rough play is not acceptable. This will teach the puppy what is often termed ‘bite inhibition’ — basically, if you bite others too hard, they will bite you back.
Clearly, where there is a size imbalance, the risk of bullying is greater. However, the dog-to-dog relationship is very much about the characters involved; some of the most unlikely relationships are built between dogs when allowed to find out about each other.
A cautionary note, however, is that if you arrange a ‘date’ between two badly matched dogs, the damage done to an unsuspecting puppy can be catastrophic, resulting in serious injury or death. And that, for the record, is why you should never allow your puppy or adult dog to charge up to another.
There are some very well-managed puppy socialisation groups on offer, but, again, be aware there are some very poorly managed ones that actually create problem behaviours in young dogs. Local vet’s dog training groups and, importantly, experienced customers of these businesses are the best way to find out about the best ones.
Well done for taking the time to research what you should do with your puppy; it’s so easy to make mistakes that will influence the puppy’s future in the long term.