Skip to content

GUIDE TO TRAINING ANS SOCIALIZATION OF YOUR DOG

A dog's personality is developed through experience, so training and socializing is very important from a young age. It is a good idea to ask about your dog's previous experiences before taking him home.

SOCIALISATION

Socialization begins at birth, which is why it is highly important to choose a good breeder, who understands this process, if you are looking for a purebred puppy. A puppy's mother will teach him /her the right behavior and pass on essential anti-bodies, which is why puppies should never leave their mother before eight weeks old

Puppy development timeline

0-2 weeks: Neurological development begins with sleep, nursing time, handling and mothering all important inputs.

2-3 weeks: Puppies will start to open their eyes first, shortly followed by their ear canals and their new ability to hear. After around three weeks they should start to walk.

3-8 weeks: The fear factor becomes established. These few weeks are critical for your puppy's socialization and are when he/she should be introduced to children, objects, noises and the general busy-ness of a normal home. If your puppy develops a fear at this stage, such as of the vacuum cleaner, he may well remain fearful of it for the rest of his life.

4-6 weeks: Socialization to other dogs begins and your puppy will learn all about dominance, submission, play-fighting and the play-bite, hunting skills and co-ordination. Mother and sibling inputs are essential here.

4-12 weeks: Socialization to humans and a home environment begin. If a puppy is caged or in isolation during this time, rather than being cared for in a stimulating environment, he may exhibit severe behavioral problems later in life.

12-16 weeks: This is a critical period for a dog - if he/she hasn't become socialized to human contact he/she could become permanently anti-social and difficult to train.

3-8 months: Reinforcement for training is very important during this time as your dog learns who is the boss of the family group.

8-12 months: Dogs will begin to express adult behavior from this stage.

Socialization is a vitally important part of ensuring you have a well-mannered puppy. Attending dog-training classes will help you to ensure that you meet the ethical and moral responsibilities that come with dog ownership, as well as helping your dog to have a happy relationship with you and the wider community. You should be able to find classes in your local area. The Kennel Club has registered clubs countrywide - find your nearest club by visiting www.thekennelclub.org.uk/findadogclub.

DID YOU KNOW?

Don't be worried if an older dog 'tells your puppy off', as this is the same as an adult disciplining a child and it will teach him about how to behave around other dogs - but do ensure he remains safe if this happens.

SOCIALISING YOUR PUPPY

Puppy classes give your pet the opportunity to socialize in a positive way with other dogs, which reinforces good manners and behavior.

In the first instance, visit a training class without your dog, so that you can judge whether the trainers are friendly, if dog owners are happy and are enjoying training their dogs. Check that all the dogs and owners are being encouraged and that the trainer is maintaining a controlled and safe environment for everyone involved.

Puppies need to meet and have pleasant encounters with a wide variety of adults, children, and other animals as well as a variety of different places. Begin when they are very young, taking care not to overwhelm them with too much at one time. Do a little every day, especially during the early weeks. Prior to classes, you should slowly introduce your dog to different noises, such as the vacuum cleaner, radio, traffic, and washing machine. It is also a good idea to get your puppy used to different objects too, such as pushchairs, walking sticks, and mobility scooters. If your dog shows any sign of anxiety, remove him from the situation and allow him to have more space next time around. Do not try to introduce your puppy to too many things at once, as he may get confused and scared.

The Kennel Club and Dogs Trust have developed a step-by-step socialization programmed, which takes a puppy from birth to 16 weeks of age. This is in the form of weekly tasks to ensure puppies are well socialized and habituated to every day sights, sounds, and noises - making sure they grow to be confident and contented companion dogs. To find out more and to register visit www.thepuppyplan.com.

TRAINING

Puppies learn the most between the ages of six to 16 weeks, so it is best to start training your puppy at home as early as possible. Start your training in a quiet area with minimal distractions and keep sessions to a maximum of 15 minutes.

Start with simple commands, such as sit, stay, come, and lay, as these will prove invaluable as your dog gets older. Once your dog has mastered these, you can move on to more challenging commands.

Positive reinforcement is the best tactic to use when training, always rewarding your puppy for good behavior. Hand signals and verbal commands must be clear, consistent, and one-worded. Repeat them often and use the same tone of voice each time.

Get the whole family on board. If everyone trains your dog using the same commands and hand signals, it will be much easier for the puppy to learn. If a stranger approaches your dog whilst you are out on a walk and he behaves well, ask the person to reward your dog with a treat (taking treats on walks with you is vital).

The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme has a Puppy Foundation Award, which aims to help with socialization and to lay down a good foundation for attending training classes as your puppy gets older. To find your local Good Citizen Dog Scheme Training Club, visit ww.thekennelclub.org.uk/findadogclub.

Puppies will also need to learn to be left alone.

Pack animals like to be with others and dogs need to be taught to tolerate being alone.

Begin with short sessions when your puppy is young and build up to longer absences gradually. Whilst it is fine to leave your adult dog on his own on the odd occasion, you should never be leaving him for more than 4 hours at a time as a matter of routine. If leaving your dog will be a common occurrence such as when you are work, then enlisting a family member or employing a dog sitter should be considered. You could even enquire if your workplace would be happy for your dog to come to work with you.

Remember, training puppies takes time and patience, so do not lose interest if your dog doesn't pick up your command the first few times - perseverance is key and your efforts will pay off. Adolescence can also be a difficult time and your puppy's behavior may deteriorate considerably, similar to a teenager, it soon passes so don't worry too much and persevere with training to reinforce good behaviors.

It is important to remember not to shout or punish your dog. A dog is unlikely to understand a command that is shouted, and punishment may make him very nervous and scared, resulting in unwanted behavior like aggression and anxiety. If your puppy gets a command wrong, do not reward him and instead ignore it and move on.

Gentle, firm, and consistent training is the best way to have an obedient dog in the future. If your dog's behavior becomes an ongoing problem seek expert advice. Above all else, training your dog should be fun for both you and him; fun translates into effectiveness.

If your circumstances change and you find that you can no longer care for your pet, then having followed this advice, you can contact the original seller - especially if you signed a contract of sale when you bought your puppy. They care about their puppies too and will discuss the right next steps for return and rehoming.