10 WAYS TO DEVELOP YOUR PUP’S SOCIAL SKILLS


1 Meet and greet

Ensure your puppy meets new people of both sexes, and all ages and appearances, such as children, OAPs, babies, people with sunglasses, those holding umbrellas, or wearing hats. Encourage visitors to pay attention to your puppy once he’s over his initial excitement, so he begins to learn that being calm is the best way to get attention.

Don’t overwhelm your puppy by asking him to meet too many visitors at once, and invite everyone he meets to offer him a treat or play a little game with him to help build positive associations.

2 Mealtimes

Encourage everyone in the family to get involved with feeding your puppy, so he doesn’t just associate one person with being fed. Also, ask family and friends to add pieces of food to his bowl when he is eating. This helps to prevent resource guarding in the future.

3 Animal therapy

As well as meeting new people, your puppy should meet as many new dogs, puppies, and other animals as possible. Try to fi nd friendly, vaccinated dogs of different sizes and breeds, rewarding puppy with treats, games, and attention for any positive interactions. Also, reward him when he pays attention to you rather than having his full focus on the other dog.

If you have a dog-friendly cat, introduce your puppy slowly, perhaps by popping him into a crate so that the cat can explore around him and get used to new smells.

A stairgate across your kitchen door can be very useful, particularly in the early days when you want to restrict access and ensure all interactions are supervised.

4 Out and about

Take short trips out in the car, using a crate or car harness to keep him safe. Ideas could include car boot sales, railway stations, car parks, park benches, friends’ houses, your veterinary surgery — basically anywhere that is new to him, where you can create a happy, positive experience.

5 Vet check

Within days of getting your puppy, book a vet check so your vet can meet the new family member. Even if his vaccinations are due, arrange to have these done on another day, so the first visit is all about fun at the surgery, being petted, and receiving high-value treats.

At home, you can practise lifting your puppy’s feet each day to examine his toes, look in his ears, and gently lift his lip to check his teeth, rewarding him when he is calm. All of these activities will help him get used to future veterinary examinations.

6 Going solo

Puppies who are never left unattended can develop separation anxiety and unwanted behaviour problems, such as destructiveness, incessant crying, and loss of house-training.

A cosy crate is a great investment to help with separation training, or use a baby gate, to separate you from the puppy but ensure that he can still see you. Practise these little solo ventures for just a few minutes at a time, when he is eating his dinner or chewing on a Kong.

7 Play time

Allow your puppy to experience and mouth toys of all types and textures, such as soft toys, tuggies, chasers, and interactive puzzles. You can also encourage him to walk on different surfaces, such as concrete, grass, pebbles, sand, rubber matting, a little step made from a cushion, and even something that moves slightly, such as a wide piece of board balanced on a tin of baked beans to make a tiny see-saw. Remember that puppies love to chew, so never leave him unsupervised with toys.

8 Grooming

Groom your puppy gently for a few minutes every day, when he’s feeling nice and relaxed; after he’s been fed and has been outside to toilet would be ideal.

Ask for recommendations of a local groomer who offers introductory puppy packages. Many groomers provide a free session, where they will meet and treat the puppy, and perhaps trim around his feet, to get him accustomed to the experience while the owner holds him.

9 Coping with noise

Hopefully, your puppy’s breeder will have already habituated him to domestic noises and experiences, but this is something you should continue. Put the TV or radio on, use the vacuum cleaner, let him hear the hairdryer, an electric mixer, and the lawn mower. You can even purchase noise CDs of fi reworks and motorbikes, which you play very softly when the puppy is playing or eating, gradually increasing the volume until he completely ignores the sounds.

10 Settle down…

Puppies need lots of rest, so encourage him to learn the word ‘settle’ when he is relaxed and sitting quietly with you. You can give him a stuffed Kong to chew on, and pop him into his crate on a comfy blanket. Experiencing calm is an important lesson, which will be invaluable in the weeks to come.


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