One thing I hear a lot is “I need to arrange a play date because I need to socialise my puppy”. It’s a really common misconception that socialising your puppy means them meeting and playing with as many dogs as possible.
The word “socialisation” can be quite misleading in terms of understanding what is needed for your puppy. We associate it with humans “socialising”, which for us means going out with our friends and having a good time. But for dogs it is something quite different and more complex.
Socialisation in “dog-speak” is the process of them getting to know the world around them and how to appropriately interact with it. The key word here is appropriate – socialisation doesn’t mean they have to interact with everything, it is equally important that they are learn to ignore things as part of every day life.
It is also unique to each dog. A dog who lives in the countryside or on a farm may need to be socialised with livestock so that they can be happy ignoring it, whereas a city dog may need to be comfortable with the sounds of traffic and busy roads.
Equally, we don’t want our dogs to think it’s fine to jump up at every human they meet, or to rush at and play with every dog. Appropriate socialisation may be learning to wait quietly while humans chat to each other, or to happily stroll past other dogs without needing to say hello and play.
We want any interactions to be positive. The risk of arranging a free for all playdate is that dogs become over-excited and the situation escalates into a negative experience, which will create problems as you continue down your training journey. Any socialisation opportunities should therefore be carefully managed to ensure the experience is beneficial to your puppy’s development.
Puppy Playdates aren’t necessarily a bad thing. But they are just one aspect of a much bigger process to ensure your dog is happy and well-adjusted in their everyday life. If you are arranging a playdate, here are my top tips to make it a success:
- Use dogs you know are calm and tolerant to encourage positive interactions
- Choose a neutral, open space so there is plenty of room to move away if needed
- Keep it short and controlled - a good rule of thumb is for every 2 minutes of play, you should make sure your dog has 10 minutes break to calm down and relax in their own space
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