Taking on a puppy or kitten is an exciting time and a learning curve, and in order for them to become happy and confident adults, it’s important your pet has a variety of positive experiences when young.
Encouraging lots of socialisation with other pets, people and situations is incredibly important so they don’t become nervous or aggressive as they grow up.
PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, says: “Socialisation has a big impact on your pet as they grow into adults. When they’re young, they can easily take things they come across in their stride and learn that there’s nothing to fear from new situations. Early experience can help shape their character for the rest of their life.
“A well-socialised pet is more likely to grow up to be friendly and confident. A pet that doesn’t experience everyday sights and sounds or have positive interactions with strangers and other animals when they’re young, may be fearful and anxious as an adult. In some cases, this can lead to fear or even aggression if they feel unsafe, so positive socialisation can help to prevent the development of these problems.”
PDSA advise that if you are thinking of getting a puppy or kitten, always look for a reputable breeder that will have started the socialisation process for you.
Nina adds: “Buying a puppy from a reputable breeder means they will already be familiar with a family home environment. Your vet will be able to give you further advice and can recommend classes, such as puppy parties in your local area.”
A checklist for socialisation:
To make sure all the new experiences your pet has are positive and they stay relaxed through the encounter. Below, the PDSA offer a list of experiences which are good to introduce from a young age.
- A wide variety of friendly pets – such as healthy, well-socialised, vaccinated pets belonging to family or friends.
- Children and young people (always under supervision).
- People of different ages and appearances, wearing different seasonal clothes, and specialist or sports equipment (think hiking hear or motorcycle helmets).
- Loud or sudden noises, such as vacuum cleaners, washing machines, thunder and fireworks. A sound desensitisation CD can be useful for this to make sure you don’t accidentally scare your pet by starting off too heavy.
- Experience different environments (e.g. countryside trails, city streets, parks, busy and quiet roads). Start this process with your pup in your arms or in a pet carrier until they’ve had their jabs.
- Travelling in the car – let them spend a short time in a stationary car in a safely secured cat carrier/dog harness a few times, then go on a short journey. You can gradually increase the length of journeys.
- Being alone – gradually get them used to being left alone at home for increasing lengths of time starting with just a few minutes and building up to a couple of hours. Although, remember that dogs should never be left alone for more than four hours at a time.
It’s best to build up new experiences gradually. For example, get them used to quieter sounds before louder ones and be sure to praise good, calm behaviour so they develop positive association that they can take with them for the rest of their lives.