By Sue McCabe
It was a delightful surprise this week when two clients with very young puppies explained they were putting into place a really varied and exciting socialisation programme for their dogs. They had planned, made lists of suitable places to visit and were already taking puppy to locations where as an adult, they would be regularly expected to relax, behave and enjoy. One owner was taking her puppy to work in a gym, another driving out of the city to allow puppy to explore crop fields. This is great news! These clients had decided that the type of pet they wanted was one who could be a true companion and accompany them wherever they went as adult dogs.
My puppies come everywhere with me, even before they have completed their vaccination programme. I consider socialisation, vaccination against the human world. Every year more dogs are put to sleep because of behaviour problems resulting from lack of socialisation than ever die of the horrible diseases such as parvo virus or distemper. Don’t misunderstand me, these diseases still exist and puppies are vulnerable to catching all kinds of nasty bugs prior to completing their course of vaccinations. But there are plenty of places where you can sensibly socialise your puppy prior to their vaccination programme being complete and the sooner you get them out and about during this crucial time, the better.
I bring puppy in my arms to shops, supermarket lobbies, the vets (many, many times where only positive things such as treat giving happens). I walk along the high street, stop and chat to neighbours, I take the bus with puppy on my lap. I visit friends who have well adjusted adult dogs who are fully vaccinated, friends who have cats and rabbits. I carry puppy to my local stables and allow him to sniff the wonderful smell of horses, to kiss their noses and enjoy their first experience of horse pooh (always a favourite). My puppies have explored our local fields well before they have finished their vaccination programme. We have driven to the airport and railway station, met countless well behaved and calm children who are invited to my home to throw balls, feed treats and gently allow puppy to sit for cuddles on their laps.
Someone somewhere came up with the hundred person rule, that your puppy should meet at least one hundred people before they are 14 weeks old. I try so hard to add one hundred different locations, animals and experiences to this rule also.
I want a dog who can accept any situation I put him into, without stress, worry or anxiety. I want a dog who loves life, who enjoys being around all aspects of the human world. Only through achieving this, can I truly bring my dog anywhere I go and know he’ll be accepted by all and loved by many more. If only more new puppy owners asked themselves ‘what kind of dog do I want’ and planned a socialisation programme that included all aspects of the human world?