Axholme Tails: What exactly is socialisation?

The same way childhood shapes a child's brain, puppy-hood shapes a puppy's brain. Like a child your pup's early experiences are the foundation of their future.

Training will go easier if you start as a puppy, although there’s actually no limit for obedience training but puppies have a critical socialisation period that lasts until they are around four months old.

To many new puppy owners they know they should “socialise” their puppy but have no idea what it is or how they are supposed to do it. Some think it is the simple act of mixing their puppy with other pups and pop along to the local Puppy Party. Unfortunately in the wrong hands things can go badly wrong.

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There is often much emphasis on off-lead play. But since puppies wont have a very strong code of appropriate play, it usually involves inappropriate play fighting. Most owners assume this is a good thing but it can encourage some to become bullies or a sensitive dog to be more fearful. Imagine leaving a group of children to run wild and the potential fall out without any adult interventions.

A good puppy party or class places greater emphasis on puppy interacting with the owner, because it’s the owner who should be responsible for their puppy’s education. Socialisation is about creating purposeful, positive experiences to prepare them for life in the human world. It is teaching them social skills needed to live with a family, canine or human, learning key skills to ensure it is happy and content in its environment. It involves having pleasant and positive social interactions with adults, children, vets, adult dogs and other animals. Plus careful exposure to any sights or sounds it will have to cope with in life from travelling in the car, the sound of vacuum cleaners and other household machines. Basically anything you would like them to cope with as an adult.