Training and Socialisation

A well trained and socialised dog is a happy dog.

Jake was initially a working dog. Thanks to his previous handler Jake arrived with me at 9 months, well socialised with other dogs, and had been exposed to pretty much everything outside the home. He was (and is) a balanced and confident dog. In the home I spent time gradually exposing him to noises like the washing machine, blender, hair dryer and vacuum. All of which was gradual and involved lots of treats. I can safely say he is bomb proof. He barks as the post lands on the mat in exchange for a treat. Something I trained him to do to stop Leo tearing it up, and yes Jake still gets a treat at 13 years old!

Truly joined us at 5 years old and her fears were fairly established. She doesn’t like travelling in the car much and isn’t tolerant of boisterous dogs. She has got used to some of the household noises, but unlike Jake who will sleep through everything, I have to give her physical and mental space to avoid anything she doesn’t like.

So, where does training and socialisation come into this?

A puppy goes through two main fear phases where they learn what’s safe and what’s not.

The early part of the first phase starts when the Mum is pregnant, and lasts until the pup is 13-15 weeks old. This first phase demonstrates how important the Mum is to the puppy’s successful start in life. If the Mum is stressed and anxious whilst pregnant, the puppy is already absorbing her elevated chemistry. If the Mum is fearful of humans, guess what the puppy learns? If you want a puppy, this demonstrates how important it is to know where your puppy has come from, and to choose the breeder carefully.

Puppy socialisation is therefore vital to expose the pup in a safe and controlled manner to sights, sounds, smells, people, other dogs, etc in order to build their confidence and remove a fearful response. Any weakness in this process may mean that the growing puppy will in future lean towards a ‘fight or flight’ response, and any emotional reaction will get worse.

The second phase is when the puppy is between 6-9 months. At 6 months the puppy is still growing and developing. At this stage training will need to take into account confidence building and socialisation, revisiting all of the sights and sounds activity undertaken earlier on.

Lockdown

During lockdown it’s not been possible for puppies to socialise in puppy training classes or at the Vet. Pre lockdown many Vet practices offered these sessions to help the pup associate the practice as a happy place to be, as well as introducing puppies to each other. A two-fold benefit for the puppy.

With the increase of puppy sales during lockdown and the lack of training opportunities, dog rescue centres have been predicting an increase in the rehoming market. Resale websites have so many adverts for adolescent dogs, from owners anxious to get their money back. Unfortunately, this means that many of these unsocialised and untrained dogs are passed onto another owner, who is often unaware of any issues. All the time the dog is getting older, bigger, and the emotional responses reinforced. It’s really sad to see.

When you buy from a reputable breeder, they will be your first point of call regarding your puppy. If you’ve re-homed a rescue dog, a rescue centre will be there to support you and your dog’s welfare.

In summary

With all things considered, my key message is that whilst there are ideal scenarios with regards to training, it’s never too late to start. Many dog trainers who offer puppy training have moved their classes online.  You can also work with your dog from home whilst you wait for training classes to open.

I will write a blog with some pointers on what to look for in an effective training class very soon 😊

In the meantime, if you’re looking for some beneficial activity you can do with your puppy during lockdown, you can find some helpful advice on the Dogs Trust site.

Until next time

Jen

 

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