Socialisation is one of the key factors towards creating a well-adjusted, reliable dog that is a pleasure to live with and there is no time more crucial for socialisation than when your dog is still a puppy. One of the most important aspects of socialisation is introducing your puppy to other dogs, so he can learn the correct way to interact with other canines and benefit from the play and social interaction. However, a bad experience with another dog can do more harm than good, therefore it is vital that you choose the other dog carefully and ensure that the interaction is a positive one for your puppy.
When Can I Start Letting my Puppy Meet Other Dogs?
While most vets will insist that you keep your puppy away from all dogs until his vaccinations have been completed, waiting that long means that the crucial time for socialisation in your puppy’s development (8-12 weeks) will have passed. Therefore, you should try to compromise by allowing your puppy to meet a few dogs that you know well and know have been vaccinated and are therefore safe for your puppy to meet.
Where Can I Meet Other Dogs Safely?
One of the best places for your puppy to meet other dogs is at puppy pre-school or “puppy parties”. These are often run by your veterinary clinic and they allow your puppy to play and interact with other puppies his age, while remaining in a safe environment. Once your puppy is older and has completed his vaccinations, you can continue this form of socialisation by enrolling him in a puppy training class. This will not only provide you with a chance to socialise your dog in a supervised environment but will also give you the basic training to help your dog become a model canine citizen.
Dog parks can be a good place to meet a variety of dogs – however, be aware that this also means a variety of temperaments, both good and bad, and great differences in the control and expectations of the owners. Dog parks can be great places to socialise your dog but ideally, a good understanding of canine body language and social hierarchy is needed to help you keep your puppy safe: many a dog has been bullied or even badly attacked in a dog park.
How do I Let Them Meet?
It is best not to let your puppy drag you up to every strange dog in the street to say hello. Not only will it teach your puppy bad manners (pulling on leash, getting excited when seeing another dog, jumping up, barking – these behaviours will escalate as the puppy grows and is no longer allowed to tow you up to strange dogs; its frustration may then become aggression), it can also be dangerous as you have no idea what the strange dog may be like. It could have behavioural problems and act aggressively towards your puppy, possibly even injuring him.
Thus it is best to teach your puppy to ignore other dogs when walking on the lead with you and encourage him to keep his attention on you. If you do decide to let him greet another dog, make sure you ask your puppy to “Sit” or give some other command which demonstrates your authority over him, before releasing him and allowing him to go up to the other dog. This way, your dog learns to ask for your permission first before greeting another dog.
Make sure both dogs are on lead and that you can rely on the person holding the other dog to control it. Let the other dog approach your puppy. In most cases, your puppy will act very submissive (such as rolling over and presenting his exposed belly, licking the lips of the other dog, crouching low and wriggling on the ground) – this is good and is what puppies should do when greeting an older dog. Allow the other dog to sniff your puppy but make sure that if it shows any negative behaviour, such as growling, it is instantly reprimanded and removed from the puppy.
Do not allow your puppy to jump up all over the other dog – it may be older, with less patience for playful antics. If the other dog does seem to be playful (eg, low wagging tail, “play-bow” – front legs bent, bum in the air) then you may decided to let the two dogs play although make sure that things do not get too rough and that the other dog is not frightening your puppy in any way (or your puppy is not overwhelming the other dog with boisterous behaviour).
It is best to make the first meeting brief and separate the dogs again. You can reintroduce them a short period later and gradually build up the time until they have sorted out the hierarchy and are comfortable in each other’s company. In some cases, some dogs can never learn to “get along” and this is not a disaster – not all humans enjoy being with each other. You will find that your puppy has certain “best friends” who seem particularly suited to his personality and will play with him best. However, whenever your puppy is interacting with other dogs, make sure you supervise constantly.