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St Anne's Veterinary Group Blog

» Puppy Socialisation and Habituation

Socialisation and habituation is the key to a happy dog and home life. Putting in the hard work when your puppy is young will without doubt make your life easier as long as you are together. Here we will look at what you need to do to get you there!

Socialisation is learning how to interact socially with other living creatures. During puppy hood, dogs will be most inclined to explore situations that are new and unfamiliar. They are very inquisitive and will explore the world in which they live in and it’s during this stage that they will begin to make decisions about what is pleasant, what is not, what is safe and what should not be trusted.  It is at this time they must learn to interact and socialise appropriately with other living creatures who we require them to live with, in particular other dogs and humans. We socialise our puppies by attending classes such as pre-school, playing with puppies in controlled situations and having as many positive experiences as possible with different people, children etc. By meeting as many different breeds, people, they will learn to read different behaviour and learn to have good social manners.

Habituation is learning to ignore stimuli that have no consequence. In order for our puppies to share our busy, noisy lives, they must learn to ignore stimuli that have no consequences for them. For your puppy this means to ignore all those things you will require them to live with. Every day sights, sounds and smells such as hoovers, washing machines, cyclists, the feeling of being in a car, prams etc. Your list may also include animals they may be exposed to but does not require them to interact with.
Remember it’s not possible to habituate our puppies to every kind of stimuli but time invested now will help them to develop the skills to deal with anything they may encounter later on in life.
But how do you achieve this? You need to slowly introduce your puppy to all the things you would like them to accept now and ignore in life, we have included some of the never ending list of things puppies will need to get used to. Try to do as many of these things puppies will need to get used to. Try to do as many of these as early on an possible.
Introduce your pet to the stimuli and encourage them to settle around them, praise and treat them when they no longer react to stimuli. Repeat this many times that it will no longer be exciting and they will no longer react to it.
If your puppy ever has a bad experience, then follow this up soon after with as many positive experiences as possible.
It is important to understand the difference between these and understand that they being to learn these social skills as early as 3 weeks old.
Some of the things to socialise your puppy with:
-Dogs - different ages, temperaments, size and breed
-Children - coming out of school
-Babies - crying!
-People - lots of different types, tall, short, hairy beards, hats, glasses, loud etc
Some of the stimuli your puppy needs to learn to ignore:
-Hoover, mop and broom
-Washing machine, ironing board
-Other animals – cattle, sheep, chickens, cats etc
-Wheel chairs
-Walking sticks
-Drain covers, manhole covers
-The car, ambulance and fire engine
-Different surfaces – water, sand, grit, grass, concrete and tiles
-Night time walks
-Noises – can use sound CD
-Umbrellas, bin men, bin bags and wheelie bins

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