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Puppy Play - friend or foe?

There's a meme doing the rounds about 'dog parks' and how damaging they are to dogs in general and puppies in particular. It's a little misleading because we don't really have them in the UK. Nevertheless the point being made about the effect of shutting a bunch of dogs in a small space and leaving them to rampage is a valid one. When you think of socialising your puppy with other dogs and puppies, think of the way we all learned our social skills as children - through socialising. At playgroup, at school, at birthday parties, you practice by being in a situation requiring interaction with other children and trial and error teaches us the rest. It is, however, supervised. There is always an adult on hand to intervene if someone's hair gets pulled or someone stands in the cake. Without adult supervision it would quickly deteriorate into noisy, sugary, messy carnage.

Puppy socialising is no different. Whilst it is critical in order to successfully live in a world filled with other dogs (12 million in the UK alone), it needs to be done well, and with adult supervision.

For example in puppy class, three or four puppies are allowed short off-lead play sessions. I supervise these very closely, interrupting play that doesn't represent behaviour you would want to be learned or repeated, and protecting the little or less confident ones who need more time and space to learn. Conversely, situations in which I would counsel caution are where there isn't expert supervision, often these are large groups and very mixed ages. The problem in these situations is generally the unwanted behaviours go unchecked and are practiced and therefore repeated. Boisterous puppies get to be rather wild and thuggish, rather than practicing moderating their play according to their playmate, timid puppies are overwhelmed and frightened, they feel in danger and often end up running, barking, or yelping to rid themselves of their new 'friend' and this can become their reaction to all dogs.

So let's not throw the baby out with the bath water, puppy socialisation is a critically importan

t part of their healthy development, but advocate for them, protect them, temper them, watch them, and remove them if needed. Good experiences should be stacked up like pancakes, poor experiences should be avoided at all costs.. they will eat your pancakes. Helen x

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