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Puppy training tips: making puppy friends

Having a puppy can be a bit like having a new baby. On top of being responsible for meeting every physical need, it’s also up to you to look after your pet pooch’s emotional development. And that starts with socialisation and puppy training.

“Dogs are social creatures. They have been domesticated to live as human companions, but they enter the world as one of a litter and enjoy living as one of a group,” says Katie Catherwood from Melbourne’s Heads & Tails Pet Care Services.

Unfortunately, doggy socialisation is not something many owners are getting an A+ in.

“I see far too many poorly socialised dogs,” says Sydney veterinarian Dr James Crowley. The result? Unwanted dog behaviour such as excessive barking, fear-aggression and apprehension. “The goal of socialisation is for your dog to be relaxed with strangers, get along well with other dogs and adapt easily to new experiences,” he explains.

Here are five ways to help improve your puppy training marks and make sure your puppy is happy socialising with other pups.

Puppies that are adequately socialised from a young age, ideally between three and 12 weeks, usually grow into more relaxed dogs

Dr Crowley

1. Start young

“Puppies that are adequately socialised from a young age, ideally between three and 12 weeks, usually grow into more relaxed dogs,” says Dr Crowley.

2. Go to puppy preschool

Catherwood says repeated, controlled exposure to other dogs is one of the best ways to socialise your pup. Start with a puppy school at your local vet, where your four-legged friend will interact with a small group of other puppies around the same age (and vaccination status) in a managed environment.

3. Stand ground

It’s tempting to scoop up your pup when a large or unfamiliar dog approaches, but you should resist the urge. “Picking up your puppy at the dog park is akin to turning up at your child's school and removing them from class every time you don't like the look of another student,” says Catherwood. “It teaches your dog to be fearful because your actions validate the need for concern.” Dogs should only be picked up at the dog park where there is a genuine danger to the dog.

4. Try agility training

Dog agility training involves navigating your dog through a series of obstacles quickly and accurately. It’s a great way for your dog to make friends… with you!

“Agility training provides a great physical workout, but one of the greatest benefits is the mental stimulation it offers. It’s a team sport between you and your dog, and therefore a positive bonding activity,” she says.

But playtime doesn’t have to be formal - try teaching dog tricks or games. “We suggest our clients play pet games to boost their training. Hide and seek is our top pick as it teaches your dog to keep an eye on you and therefore strengthens their recall.”

5. Get downloading

Wondering how to train a puppy? Why not turn to technology, with an app that socialises pets to sounds and stimuli. Dr James suggests Sound Proof Puppy Training ($4.99 from iTunes^), an app that trains puppies to become comfortable with environmental noise, such as cats, plastic bags, thunder, fireworks and planes.


^iTunes is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the US and other countries.