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Socializing your pet with humans

30 JANUARY 2011

Chinese New Year is around the corner again! You can feel the festive spirit in the air, sense the excitement that permeates every corner of the island… or maybe you simply see supermarket shelves stacked with New Year cookies, accompanied by the relentless blaring of cheesy New Year tunes from the same playlist you heard last year and all the years before that.

Chinese New Year can be a really fun time for your pet too, and I’m not referring to the gold mine of cookie crumbs. Well, CNY usually means lots of visitors, which makes it an excellent opportunity to socialize your pet. Socialization is perhaps the most underrated and neglected aspect of a pet’s wellbeing. A well socialized dog is a happy and confident dog, which will be able to behave around other people and dogs with not much of a problem.

While many people may think of socialization as dog to dog thing, it is important to note that dog to human socialization is just as important. I always encourage owners to expose their puppies to as many human interactions as they can. Before you start having a group of strangers come up to pet your puppy, make it a point to expose you puppy to the different types of touch. Yes. Everyone touches a dog in a different manner. Some of us pet harder; some of us ruffle the dog’s fur and so.

What I do is that I would touch my dog in different areas, his face, his paws, his hind legs, his tummy, in different variations of speed and strength. Sometimes I tug his ears a little, sometimes I squeeze his paws, sometimes I pull his tail lightly, sometimes… you get the point.

When your puppy is fully comfortable with the different touch sensations, you can start inviting your friends over to your place; bring your puppy to a park or even outside the mall! Make sure to bring a variety of your dog’s favourite treats. To properly socialize your puppy, get as many people of different shape and sizes, gender, age, and ethnicities to pet your puppy while giving it a treat. Have people wearing big hats, sunglasses, or even carrying an umbrella to approach your dog with its favourite treat too. If your puppy shies away when a stranger approached, have them toss the treat at your puppy instead. Always make sure that the contact made is comfortable and positive for the puppy. It will take a few sessions of consistent socialization before you see your dog wagging it tail whenever it is around people.

If you have a dog with a severe case of aggression, it is advisable to consult a professional trainer.

Signing off,
Claire & Brown