Animal Talk | February 21

We have two six-week old puppies in our building today for socialisation. While they’re absolutely adorable now, in a matter of months these tiny pups will be significantly larger. It’s imperative that we start to socialise them now so that in the future they don’t come back to the shelter due to problematic behaviour.

PLAY WITH ME: Irresistibly cute now, but when little pups grow into big dogs, poor socialisation in their younger years could make them difficult or dangerous. Photo: supplied.

PLAY WITH ME: Irresistibly cute now, but when little pups grow into big dogs, poor socialisation in their younger years could make them difficult or dangerous. Photo: supplied.

What is socialisation?

Socialisation is teaching your furry pal not to react fearfully to new experiences. It’s giving them the tools to cope when encountering new people and scary or uncomfortable situations. Gaps in socialisation can result in an overly shy or an aggressive canine.

We’ve decided to do a three-part series in this column by breaking socialisation down into ages: Puppies (birth – 16/17 weeks), Adolescent (16/17 weeks – 18 months) and Adult dogs (18 months +).

Puppy socialisation

This age is a critical period of learning and development and can influence their behaviour well into adulthood. During this time, it’s crucial to introduce a puppy to a variety of stimuli every day and to ensure that the experiences are ALL positive. These experiences include interactions with different people of all ages, genders and appearances, as well as other animals. Exposure to new and busy environments, as well as variety of noises will also teach them not to be scared of such situations later.

Make sure to reward good behaviour and bravery with positive reinforcement. For example, treats, pats and playtime are great rewards to reinforce desirable actions. If undesirable behaviour continues, take them out of the situation and try again another time.

When socialising your puppy with other animals it’s a good idea to ensure that they are healthy and up-to-date with their vaccinations.

Just remember – be patient! The learning process can be gradual. If in doubt it’s always a good idea to get professional advice that is tailored to your pet.

Next week, we’ll share advice with ‘Part 2: Adolescent Socialisation (16/17 weeks – 18 months)’.

  • Tammy Ven Dange is the CEO of RSPCA ACT. Follow her at @tvendange