What is socialisation?
What is socialisation?
Socialisation – the thing we’re told to do with our dogs from puppies, and the number one thing first time dog owners often worry about. But what exactly is socialisation for dogs?
Different trainers have different takes on what socialisation means for dogs, but in short, socialisation refers to the positive exposure and interaction your dog has with the world around them. New puppy owners are often told about the all important ‘socialisation window’ (between 4-12 weeks of age) and feel the pressure to expose their dog to lots of people and other dogs during this period, however what many people don’t understand is that socialisation can be a life-long process for dogs and their owners.
As dogs grow up and grow older, they start to develop their own likes and dislikes, however for some dogs (particularly those who may have had negative experiences in the past) this can translate into the dislike of a particular breed, or type of dog. Gentle, careful socialisation with a wide variety of breeds throughout your dog’s lifetime can be one way of preventing a general preference or aversion from turning into reactivity. And for owners of rescue dogs, socialisation may be an important part of their dog’s post-rescue rehabilitation, as they learn (sometimes for the first time as adults) how to interact appropriately with other dogs.
Here at Jess Fox & Hound, we use our group walks to provide the kind of gentle socialisation opportunities that your dog needs, from puppy into adulthood. Whilst we’re not dog trainers or behaviourists, we do understand dog body language and interaction and through our structured, guided walks (the foundation to any good dog walk, as we discuss in this post) are able to offer opportunities for dogs to socialise with each other in a regulated way, which will open them up for more positive interactions when out and about with you. We also offer home visits for pre-vaccinated puppies where, with owners’ permission, we can introduce them to some of our calm adult dogs within their own home
Above all, it’s important to remember is that socialisation does not mean throwing your dog in at the deep end with other dogs and expecting them to have a good time. Dogs are complex creatures, and each dog is an individual with their own fears, likes and quirks. The real key to effective socialisation is knowing your dog, and understanding their thresholds, and building socialisation opportunities around that.
And with that in mind, below are some useful links from professional trainers and behaviourists talking about the socialisation process which you might find useful for when it comes to thinking about your own dog’s socialisation process:
- “Pro Tips for Introducing and Socialising Puppies and Dogs” by international agility and behaviourist expert Susan Garrett offers some great practical advice on how to begin socialising your dog in a structured way
- McCann Dog Training on ‘The mistakes people are making when socializing their dogs’ and ‘The Unpopular Truth About Socialising Your Dog’ gives a really useful overview of common mistakes and assumptions people make when it comes to socializing their dogs
- Absolute Dogs Podcast episode on how to introduce dogs to one another