It is very important to do things right from the start with your young pet because in this early stage it will learn the most important things it will encounter during the rest of its life. A good socialisation is the key to a well behaved dog or cat. I can give you advice about socialising your puppy or kitten, about the basic requirements for good behavioural health and welfare, and about training basic commands and house-training your puppy. It is important to be very careful how to teach your puppy basic commands (like: come, sit, down, stay). If it learns these commands in the proper way you will be able to control your pet in difficult situations.
This article I wrote about socialisation was featured on Mudfooted.com
In an animal’s life there are critical periods in which certain important events must happen or otherwise that learning opportunity is lost. The most important critical period is during the first few months after birth. It is important to understand more about this so-called socialization period in animals and especially in dogs because a lack of socialization can result in serious behaviour problems of our favourite pet.
The socialization ends when the puppy is around 3 months old. At this time the puppy will start to become less and less bold for new stimuli. It is thought that is the result of the maturing of the nervous structures that are responsible for fear responding – the amygdala. If a puppy would have been fearful during this period it would not have been able to habituate to new stimuli.
If a dog lives in a poor environment during the first three months of its life – no contact with dogs, people, situations it may encounter more often later in its life – he will not have a chance to properly habituate to them, resulting in a fearful response to almost all stimuli during the rest of its life.
For most dogs it is especially important that the puppy learns to live among both humans and dogs. If the puppy has contact with other dogs but not with people, it may learn how to behave with other dogs but it will become fearful of people and fear may lead to aggression. It is therefore important that dogs are socialized to all kinds of dogs and people. If for example a dog isn’t socialized properly with young children there will be a higher chance it will be fearful and aggressive to them because of their unexpected explorative behaviour. If on the other hand a puppy has a lot of contact with people but not with other dogs, it will not properly have learned how to communicate with its own species and will therefore likely be fearful to other dogs and misinterpret their social signs.
Despite of our knowledge of dog socialization, behavioural problems of our four-legged friends are still a major issue with many dogs being euthanised and abandoned. It can even be considered a public health problem with almost 1 out of every 50 people in the US being bitten by a dog each year. To avoid these problems the simple answer is: good socialization. Dogs that are well socialized with both their own species as well as other animals, will not only be less likely to develop behavioural problems but enjoy a happier life.