Dogs are sociable creatures. The vast majority love to play with their pals in the park, say hello to humans and generally be everyone’s friend.
To make sure you and your dog are happy and stress-free, teaching some social skills is a vital part of their development – especially with puppies.
Start your dog’s socialisation whilst they are a pup
If you adopt a puppy, it’s important to start educating them on social etiquette as soon as they can enter the big, bad world. For the first few weeks of their lives, puppies have sky-high confidence and zero fear. As they grow and develop, nature takes its course and confidence/fear balance out.
During that window where the world is their oyster, you should socialise them as much as possible, expose them to lots of different sounds and places. You’ll both reap the rewards when your puppy grows up if you instil an awareness of the outside world from a young age.
Positive exposure to people and places
You should allow your dog to meet as many people and other animals when out and about as possible. Make sure it’s in a safe, controlled manner to start with, such as when the dog is on a lead. They will naturally be curious about who they meet and, provided other people and dogs are comfortable, encourage them to interact with people wherever possible. When out, teach your pooch to focus on you using treats and praise - so they'll always associate going out with having fun and bonding with you. You should also train your dog to respond to an appropriate command so it will leave any dogs or people who may be nervous in peace.
You should also let them socialise and interact with people who come to your home. Ultimately, this should mean you can walk your dog and have people round at the house and be stress-free, knowing your dog is quite relaxed in any situation.
Make sure they have a safe environment in the house, a place which feels like their home where they can retreat to if they want a bit of space. This will provide comfort for your dog if things ever feel like a bit too much, and can be a haven at times of year such as Bonfire Night, when fireworks are going off outside.
Introduce your dog to the wider world
The world is a busy, daunting place. For a dog, the vast amount of sights, sounds and smells out there can be a bit overwhelming. This is why they need regular exposure to things like traffic and different noises. When you take your dog out, make sure their experiences are coupled with positive reinforcement - so have a ready supply of treats and praise to reward positive behaviour and reactions.
Over time, your dog should hopefully learn that the sheer volume of things out there is nothing to be feared.
Successfully building socialisation skills with your dog will boost their confidence, strengthen their bond with you and ensure you can take them here, there or anywhere and they are likely to be okay.