Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The importance of socialisation

Socialisation means allowing your dogs to get used to and learn to play and interact correctly with other dogs. This means developing the correct social skills when meeting new dogs, learning to play nicely (and adjusting the play to match the playmate) and also learning when another dog wants to be left alone. These social skills are important because, basically, dogs love to be around other dogs. It makes them happy, and I always think a dog who doesn't ever socialise is missing out a little. It can also be a life saver, if your dog knows and understands the signals that mean 'leave me alone' it will save them from aggressive confrontations. 

Socialisation is best started as early as possible (after the puppy is fully vaccinated of course, and only with other vaccinated dogs). We have recently had quite a few puppies start attending daycare, including our own, and they really love it. It's a joy to see them playing and learning the important social skills. 

It goes without saying that if during the temperament assessment a dog shows any sign of aggression means the dog will have to be exercised with just human company and won't be able to socialise. This doesn't mean that we don't like your dog! or that they won't get as much attention, it is simply for safety's sake, as I'm sure you can understand. We are also extra cautious with bigger or powerful breeds ie staffies or rottweilers. This isn't because we believe the media hysteria which gives the breeds an undeserved bad name, but simply because they are stronger and even a minimal amount of aggression would be quite serious - where if a shih-tzu is a bit grumpy it's not such a big deal. 

The dogs we can help are ones that are simply nervous, or lacking in social skills but friendly, can certainly be worked on and improved. We also need the consent of the owner to allow their dog to be exercised in a small group environment. Most owners with friendly dogs are more than happy to do so, as it simply makes the dog's experience in kennels a much happier and more interesting one, and I'm sure it's the secret to why our kennels is so lovely and quiet - no manic barking here! Because everyone is well exercised and mentally stimulated. I've read that 20 mins doggie playing with worth an hours lead walk, so no wonder everyone is nice and tired after exercise time.     

The beauty of our  kennels and daycare is that it provides a perfect environment for learning socialisation skills. When meeting dogs down the park your can't always guarantee they are friendly or under control. All the dogs are temperament assessed before being allowed in group play and supervised by very experienced staff. We also have the opportunity to hand pick playmates who match your dog's character and socialisation level. For example, if your dog has very little experience with other dogs and is very nervous or submissive, we can pick older or less playful dogs for them to meet first. These dogs aren't likely to do more than sniff your dog and walk off. What they will do is provide unobtrusive company, and this can be good for helping nervous dogs overcome their fear as their is no pressure to play or even be too close to other dogs. If the nervous dog gains confidence in this playgroup and shows signs of wanting to play, we can pick other playmates which are a little more exciting. Often a dog can come to stay with us and starts out very nervous, but goes home with bags of confidence and enjoying the company of other dogs rather than being scared. 

Another example of how good socialisation can be good for dogs is when they are boisterous (ie essentially very friendly but with not very refined social skills... too 'in your face' for most dogs to cope with. These dogs may often be met with aggression even through they themselves are very friendly). What these dogs need to learn is to control their excitement, be more polite, and learn to recognise who wants to play and who doesn't. With more contact with other dogs these boisterous sorts will soon become less exited around other dogs, simply because it's not such a novelty. They will also learn what gets the best response from the other dogs, and often learn to tone down their behaviour - otherwise no one wants to make friends with them! This also goes for puppies too, who are often over exuberant with their greetings and play at first. 

We have quite an established group in the daycare now, and it is lovely to watch the dynamics and behaviour of the dogs. They all seem to know who wants to play and who's needs a rest, and they adjust their play to suit the playmate - ie the big dogs will wrestle lying on their backs, giving their smaller friend the advantage and making the game 'fair'. 
They all look forward to coming to daycare, dragging their owners in and often not wanting to go home! (and some of these dogs started off very nervous too!).

Doggie daycare is becoming more popular now with owners working long hours and simply not having the time to spend walking their dog. Daycare is a perfect solution as the dog has both human and canine company all day, lots of exercise and stimulation. It boosts their confidence and makes them calmer and more manageable at home. 

What's nice about our daycare here at Woodland View is that it is quite small, with only limited numbers attending. This means that the staff can manage the dogs easily, making the environment safer and also more suitable for small puppies or older, or nervous dogs who would be overwhelmed at a bigger daycare. 

For lots of pictures and videos of the playtimes, please visit our Facebook page:

Any other enquiries please give us a call or e-mail.