There is a lot of conflicting advice out there about puppy training. These are some of our observations based on 40 years of experience training tens of thousands of puppies.
Thanks to lockdown dogs are more popular now than ever before and we are constantly being asked ‘what can I do to socialise my puppy – I’ve read he needs to play with other pups – should I send him to doggy day care?’ In normal times there would also be the option of puppy play times at puppy day care and some vet surgeries. We are concerned that allowing uncontrolled play with other puppies is not all positive. Since the advent of the promotion of these puppy play services we have seen a rise in problems of adult dogs with anti social behaviour, it is one of the commonest issues we are asked to help with in older puppies and young adolescents.
It is a skilled operation to manage a puppy’s play time with other dogs and this is not possible if you plan on walking with your puppy at a young age with groups of other puppies whilst the owners chat and the puppies run around crazily together. Walks should be seen as part of your pup’s training, it is important that you prevent possible problems from developing and that means you interacting with your young dog throughout the walk.
Puppy Socialisation is NOT allowing your puppy run around playing, chasing and play-fighting with other dogs and puppies. Puppies get very little benefit from playing solely with other pups, the main thing they learn is that it is acceptable to play madly with no boundaries this often increases their biting habits with not just other dogs but humans also and without positive intervention they learn to ignore their owners as play with other dogs is more fun.
Take care attending puppy play groups with little control, often these sessions run by inexperienced but well meaning personnel which can lead to bullying and fearful experiences. Instead puppy should learn ‘doggy manners’ – some are outgoing and some are more shy around other dogs. A shy puppy having a bad experience with a more bold puppy can make him fearful of other dogs resulting in barking and snapping at other dogs. It is more beneficial for a puppy to meet and interact with a variety of older dogs who will be less interested in playing crazily, they will greet the puppy and then move on or even put it in its place if the puppy is too persistent with it’s attention seeking.
It is important that you are in control of the situation, this can be done by having your puppy on a long line and teaching a good recall, when another dog appears let them greet each other and then by using the long line you will be able to encourage your puppy to recall to you by offering a mega treat or a tugging game. You should start doing this as soon as your puppy’s vaccinations are complete and it is out, start by practising in a quiet area with very few distractions.
When meeting other dogs with your puppy whilst on lead you should only allow a brief greeting to take place, ie 2 or 3 seconds, longer than this and you risk leads getting tangled, dogs cannot play properly on lead so they become frustrated and over excited. It is important to remember that not all dogs are “friendly” and adult dog’s may not want to meet a puppy and that it’s important to teach a puppy to sometimes just walk past other dogs and people. Never allow a puppy, however friendly it’s intentions, to run up to another dog.
You should work hard during your pup’s formative months to encourage him to focus on you whilst out on walks, use the time to teach him a good, fast recall, also practise getting his attention on you whilst doing other exercises such as sit, down and stay. Most importantly when you are on walks, play with your pup, play hide and seek, games are great fun for the family as well as your puppy and teaches him to pay attention to what’s going on!
Do not leave your pup unattended in your garden as this will allow him to become independent and could ruin your recall training, make sure you go into your garden with your puppy. Unsupervised puppies in your garden can learn problematic behaviours, digging, eating shrubs, escaping and also there is a danger of puppy being stolen which is sadly all too common these days.