Every day, hundreds of dogs are handed to shelters around the world. And the leading reason for this? Behavioural problems.

If your dog isn’t socialised from an early age, chances are that you’ll encounter problems as your dog gets older, especially when meeting strangers, children and other animals. The critical period for socialisation is 3-12 weeks when your dog is most receptive.

Direct and repeated exposure to new faces, places, sights and sounds will be the difference between a relaxed and confident dog, and a dog that is unduly nervous or aggressive.

  • Bear in the mind that the 3-12 week stage is still a tender age and so limiting interactions to the home is probably wise, at least until your dog gets a bit older.
  • Socialisation isn’t just for puppies and should be reinforced throughout your dog’s life.
  • Socialising your dog in a busy household is easily done as people are coming and going all the time and there is general activity and hubbub during the day. However, in a smaller or quieter home, you might want to invite friends round to get your dog used to seeing and interacting with other people. Play dates with other dogs are very worthwhile if they can be arranged.
  • While important, initial interactions with other dogs should be approached with caution and care. This goes for introducing other animals too. Puppy classes are a great way of reinforcing social behaviours and manners, as well as encouraging friendships between dogs.
  • Build a strong, trusting relationship with your dog by spending time together, playing and communicating, petting and handling. If your dog is confident around you, then he’s more likely to embrace others with the same confidence.
  • When your dog is old enough to go outside, make sure he is kept on a lead at all times to begin with. Even if your dog is friendly and well-mannered, lots of dogs aren’t, and there will be some that feel threatened by other dogs boisterously approaching them. You can’t be blamed for a confrontation if your dog is kept safely on a lead. Remember that having a dog that is dangerously out of control is illegal.
  • As your dog becomes more socialised, you will come to understand the things that make him feel anxious, scared and even hyperactive. Some dogs are fine with other dogs, but don’t get along with cats or small children. Others love the company of cats but are fearful of dogs of the same sex. Once you recognise these triggers you can avoid difficult encounters or work on removing the fear altogether.

We would love to hear your experiences of how easy/difficult socialising your dog was, so please comment below with your stories and advice.

Written by: Hannah