Let’s face it, puppies are super cute, cuddly and hard to resist, which is why many dog owners choose them over older dogs. However, be warned, getting your puppy up and running as a well-behaved and well-rounded ‘grown-up’ takes time and patience.
Where to start? Puppy socialisation.
According to The Kennel Club, puppy socialisation refers to the process a puppy undergoes to learn key life skills making it happy and confident in its environment and communicating effectively within its social group.
The core period for this and the whole puppy learning process is from birth to 14-16 weeks. And for the first 6-8 weeks (a puppy should not leave its mother before then) it’s very much down to its mum and siblings.
Here at Bruce’s Doggy Day Care, we take on puppies from 12 weeks old, and we help ensure this steep learning curve is followed through three key steps.
- Step 1: While puppies should mix and interact with other dogs, they mustn’t be over-exercised as their bodies are still developing. We therefore provide big comfy beds and quiet rest areas for them to seek out when they’ve finished exploring. This is essential at home too. Puppies love to play but they instinctively know when they’ve had enough and need to chill-out.
- Step 2: Puppies need more food, and usually several smaller meals a day, to ensure they have all the nutrition required to develop and grow into a healthy adult dog. We therefore feed them regularly and separately in special doggy crates where they can eat at their own pace. The discipline of this process also serves as a valuable training tool, as the best-behaved puppy gets fed first and the others soon learn that good behaviour is rewarded.
- Step 3: Human interaction is also important so the puppies can recognise their human handlers as leader of the pack. This is not just a good social skill but a safe one too – all dogs are so much easier to train and develop when they are puppies, rather than when they are fully grown. Our 20-strong team is very experienced in dog and puppy handling, and this ensures the puppies love and respect them and in turn their owners.
A fantastic real-life example of puppy socialisation in action is in the training of guide dogs. The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association does incredible work producing fully trained dogs resulting in life-changing experiences for their new owners. And it puts much of this success down to its puppy walkers who help play a vital role in the early socialisation and education of those guide dogs.
So, by all means get a puppy, but please make sure its socilaisation is top of your to-do list.