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Do You Know What Socialisation Should Look Like With Your Puppy?

Socialisation is so misunderstood and often the impact of poor socialisation can have long term impact on your dog’s temperament.

Kamal Fernandez

Author: Kamal Fernandez

Do You Know What Socialisation Should Look Like With Your Puppy?

It can be super complicated to know how to Socialise your puppy or young dog appropriately, to avoid long term issues. Well, there is a system to use to help you avoid issues. 

A Simple System to Help With Puppy Socialisation

I use the ‘Red/Amber/Green’ system to meet dogs, people and ‘things’. This is a simple and easy process to follow, which can help you negotiate socialisation, and allow you to introduce your puppy to anything new in a safe and strategic manner.

Red

This is the  first step when meeting another dog or person. Stop and assess the situation. 

Some questions to ask yourself are as follows:

  • Is MY dog showing any signs of fever or apprehension?
  • Is MY dog calm and under control?
  • Is the other dog showing any signs of fever or apprehension?
  • Is the other dog under control?
  • Is the size match up appropriate?
  • Is the person with the dog, comfortable with the interaction?
  • Is this person suitable to introduce to your puppy? 
  • Do they have any attire that may concern your puppy? This may include items such as a walking frame, umbrella, cane etc.

It is important, at this stage, that you make the decision that suits your dog. Often, people will expose their puppy to situation which, in hindsight, they regret. Trust your gut, and if it doesn’t feel right, walk away.

Employ a ‘Dynamic’ risk assessment, and have an exit strategy if you opt not to allow your puppy to move onto the next stages (Amber and Green stages). This may involve taking an alternative route, backtracking, or simply making a polite exit and leaving.

Amber

This is when you will approach and initiate engagement with the owner and dog. This does not have to be a physical interaction, but merely a conversation to introduce yourself and ascertain more information. 

‘How old is your dog’?

‘Is it a boy/girl’?

‘What breed is s/he’?

‘Are they ok with other dogs’?

These questions are your chance to gain more information, and allow your to make a decision as to whether you progress to the next phase. If, at any point you don’t feel comfortable, you can opt not to progress to meeting/engaging further. 

You can feed as you approach to ensure a positive emotional response is conditioned. Ensure that you are consistent with what you ask your puppy to do. Allowing them to pull or jump to greet people is not only setting the tone of the meet, but undermining your future relations to people/dogs. 

It is also helpful to introduce a verbal cue to allow permission to interact with the dog/person, for example, ’Say hello’, ‘Go see’. This creates clarity for your puppy when they can and when they can’t interact with people. 

Green

You have now decided that, based on the above two stages, you are happy/comfortable to allow interaction. This can be on the lead initially to maintain control.

The initial physical interaction will be brief, appropriately 5-10 seconds, at which you would call your dog away and allow for a repeat of the ‘Amber phase’. Based on the reaction both dogs have, or your dog has to the person, you can decide if you wish to allow further interaction/allow dogs off lead, etc.

Throughout the process, ensure you are constantly monitoring the behavioural ‘temperature’. It is good practice incorporating regular recalls into the mix, and then release them to interact again.

Meeting people outside

When approaching people outside, here are some simple tips to help you do this effectively:

  • Ensure you have your puppy engaged and you are reinforcing a calm response as you see another person.
  • Have you puppy on the opposite side of the person that you are approaching. 
  • Utilise the RED/AMBER/GREEN system to meet people. 
  • Reinforce calm behaviour and practice ‘meeting’ people by using friends/family members who will ensure your puppy has the appropriate interaction.
  • When first introducing your puppy to another person, use a collar grab to control the meet. Escort the puppy to the person and then guide them away.
Puppy behavior reinforcement

Tips for meeting dogs

  • Utilise a dog that you know so you can predict the likely outcome.
  • Reinforce your puppy on the approach for calm behaviour.
  • Allow longer than unusual for the correct approach. If your puppy gets over aroused, create distance and allow time for them to calm themselves. 
  • Initially allow brief introductions and then recall and reassess.
  • Keep the meeting brief at first to monitor your puppy’s emotions.

 

To Summarise, Here are some simple tips to help you get socialisation right!

🐶 Be proactive! Start ASAP, but be strategic, intentional and deliberate in the experiences your puppy has! The goal of socialisation is to have your dog put everything in the ‘So What Bubble… ‘so what, there is a dog’ ‘so what, there is a person’….

🐶 Socialisation is a marathon not a sprint. It is ongoing; don’t feel you have to cram it all in when you first get your puppy home! Take your time to consider what experiences you are creating for your puppy!

🐶 Be guided by your puppy and go at their pace. All puppies are different, so let them dictate what they are ready for.

🐶 Ensure you build up the right emotions by using positive reinforcement to support the dog in having a positive emotional response to new environments and situations. 

🐶 Learn to read your puppy’s body language and be receptive to what they are saying. 

If you are unsure, remove them from the situation and reassess.

For more puppy related tips from ProDog experts check out our Puppy Raw Feeding guide and Puppy Prep guide.

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