LEARNING BEGINS AT HOME
Like many things in life, social etiquette must be taught. Young puppies will learn the rules of canine social interactions, through trial and error as they play with their siblings and spend time with their mother (especially from the age of five weeks to eight weeks). This is one of the reasons that puppies should not be sold before 8 weeks of age. Mothers play a crucial role in teaching their off-spring boundaries and respect.
THE ROLE OF A PARENT
It is not unusual to see the Mum mouth and pull on a puppy’s neck in order to discipline unruly behaviour. She may also push her puppy into submission with her nose, growl or even snap at her puppies from time to time.
Puppies mouth each other during play, and engage in rough and tumble from three weeks of age. Playing rough is a daily occurrence and one of the ways that puppies establish a hierarchy in the pack. This roly-poly fun will continue until one of the puppies loses interest, becomes distracted or assumes a submissive position.
If a puppy becomes too rough or bites too hard, the offended puppy will let out a yelp and stop playing. This sends the message loud and clear to the boisterous pup that he needs to curb his exuberance before play will resume.It is not unusual to see the Mum mouth and pull on a puppy’s neck in order to discipline unruly behaviour. She may also push her puppy into submission with her nose, growl or even snap at her puppies from time to time.
SOCIALISATION BECOMES THE OWNER’S RESPONSIBILITY
After a puppy has been adopted, the socialisation process should continue through planned interactions with other dogs. Without this type of education, the result may be a dog-reactive puppy who is unable to relax in the presence of another dog. Your puppy will benefit from lots of varied experiences with a range of dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds.
THE KEY IS TO MAKE EVERY INTERACTION A POSITIVE ONE.
Dogs are pack animals and social creatures by nature. Socialisation with other dogs is very important for your dog’s wellbeing.
Social Etiquette is learnt through trial and error and repeated opportunities to learn from other dogs.
Dog Play has been described as “Practicing the four F’s”. This list of the four F’s is as follows:
- FIGHT – Dog Play can get really rough – mouthing each other, pinning each other on the ground and general rough and tumble.
- FLIGHT – In a Dogs World this is “I chase you, you chase me”.
- FEED – Practicing all the steps of a predatory sequence, including alert; stalk; chase; pounce; grab and shake.
- FUN – Frolicking around, displaying affection and licking and grooming each other fall into this category. The humping action is also playing.
Watching Dogs at play, it can be difficult to judge aggression versus fair play. Even though you can see vigorous rough and tumble between Stanley and his girlfriend Annie, it is obviously friendly banter. How do I know? Note the light gummed biting, the relaxed body language and most of all, how the roles of dominant and submissive, chaser and chased, alters over small moments in time.
PUPPY PLAY DATES
It is a good idea to manage interactions in the beginning. This may mean avoiding dog parks in the interim as this type of environment is more difficult to control.
Puppy Play dates with a single other dog are a great way to begin the socialisation experience. Older, well-socialised dogs, who have great play skills can help guide younger puppies.
PUPPY DATE ETIQUETTE
As mentioned above, arranging a puppy play date with another owner and their dog, is a fabulous opportunity to increase your dog’s social skills and bolster his/her confidence. The ultimate goal is to have a relaxed and well socialised dog that can interact with a range of other dogs in a way that is fun for all involved. The following are tips to setting up a successful Play Date with another owner and their dog:
SUPERVISE THE PLAY
- Supervision is necessary whenever you introduce your puppy to a new canine friend. Pay attention to your dog at all times. This is harder than it sounds, because you’ll be chatting with the other people. In this situation it is OK to suddenly interrupt the person talking to you and say, “Excuse me one sec” and attend to your dog. Remember, the purpose of a puppy play Date is to have a positive dog-to-dog experience. That requires your vigilance and intervention in a number of situations.
BE PREPARED TO INTERVENE
- During the puppy play interactions, watch the other dog’s body language—just because it’s annoying you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s annoying the other dog. Keep in mind that play may look rough and out-of-hand but both dogs may be having great fun. In a situation that threatens to become a negative experience, you do need to be ready to intervene, for the sake of your own dog and his play partner. If your dog is chomping on another dog trying to get it to run, or barking incessantly and that other dog is trying to ignore her, give your dog a chance to get the message and stop (this is the value of these play dates, the dogs learn socialisation skills and they have to learn the dog rules from other dogs). If she doesn’t “get it” relatively soon, then it is time to intervene.
READ THE PLAY
- Our dogs express themselves with their whole body. Yes, literally from the way that they wag their tail to the movements at the base of their ears! Pay close attention to the body language of both dogs during a socialisation experience.
PROVIDE PLAY BREAKS
- If it is time to intervene, go in with a treat, and take your dog’s collar and lure your dog over to you. Treating frequently, make her sit for a moment and see what the other dog does—does he seem relieved or does he come back into engage your dog in play? If he comes back in, let them off to play again. If the other dog seems relieved that your dog has stopped, work with your dog for a minute on eye contact with you, treating frequently and generously. In other words, impose a break. Then let her off again to go play if it’s OK with the other owner. Watch the body language of both dogs. If your dog re-engages the same way as before and doesn’t get the “I don’t want to play this way” hint, intervene again. Remove her to a nearby area and try change up the game– Introduce a toy and let her chase it, and see if they can engage in tug of war or keep away. If none of that works quickly, intervene again. Consider ending the session for now. The other dog may be done playing. Sometimes a 5 minute break is all that’s needed, other times it’s time to wrap it up for the day. The big point is that if your pup is playing in a way that the other puppy doesn’t like, intervene quickly and don’t be at all offended if the other owner intervenes quickly. These play sessions MUST be a positive experience for both dogs.