Blog by Irene Hislop
If anything is more adorable than one puppy, it’s two puppies. Or three. Or more. But does a puppy need dog friends to be happy? Every dog is an individual, but canines are pack animals. They are naturally social. Your family is their primary pack. They’ll take the most comfort from your company, and rely on you for routine and to provide plenty of their favourite foods - but socialising with other dogs is important for a few key reasons.
Dogs, especially puppies, need to play their way, which isn’t always appreciated by humans. It is normal and healthy for them to wrestle and nip each other. Like toddlers, they learn through their play what the limits are, how rough is too rough. As a bonus, they can also burn up some of their massive energy while the owners relax.
If your dog is exposed to many other dogs over time you’ll notice which ones they are happiest to see. And if you own more than one dog, you will see a deep bond form even if they sometimes squabble over toys or treats.
Socialising Your Puppy
Meeting and befriending other dogs in a variety of settings will mean your pup grows up to be the sort of dog you’re comfortable taking many different places. Dogs learn social skills from us and from other dogs. Early socialisation is a great way to prevent your dog from becoming reactive to other dogs, which will make every outing easier.
Make sure that before you introduce your puppy to other dogs, they’ve completed their vaccination and de-worming programme as recommended by their vet!
So how do you do it? You have a lot of options actually. You might have organised dog socialisation classes in your area. Obedience classes are another good place for your dog to meet others in a structured setting.
Dog parks can be another option, but require more awareness. Not every dog you encounter there will have a responsible owner and good social skills. Make sure you bring along a plentiful supply of healthy treats to encourage good and safe behaviour.
One of the very best options is to just hang out with other dog-owning friends. Meet up for walks or invite your friends to bring their dogs when they visit you.
You’ll notice that your dog reacts differently to different dogs. Some will hit it off, while others clash or just aren’t interested. It’s worth pursuing those canine friendships. It provides fun and comfort to both dogs.
Before you let your dog play, make sure you are familiar with their body language and can distinguish play fights from real fights. Most dogs love play fighting, and they understand each other – but humans can get worried. When playing, they will snarl and nip each other, but they’ll also be wagging their tails, doing the play bow with their front end down and their rear end up, and holding their heads up with ears perked up. Remember, pups are still learning what is safe play and like children, they’ll make mistakes and learn from them.