Friday, 22 March 2019

Introducing your puppy to other animals

Puppies that live with me have to learn to get along with my dogs, cats, chickens, goats and a ram and live in harmony (for the most part). I want them to be able to socialise with other dogs when it’s appropriate to do so and accept new dogs into our house. But I also want them to ignore other dogs too, I don’t want them to run over to every dog they see on a walk or try to pull towards dogs on lead. I definitely want them to ignore animals away from home like cows, sheep and horses.  

That’s quite a big ask! But here’s an idea of how I have achieved it so far

Summer meets the chickens and Mr Goose

My animals (dogs, cats, chickens, goats, ram)

My puppy is never left unattended with any of the other animals. Initially there is lots of supervision any time my puppy is going to be around any of my other animals. If I can’t supervise than the puppy is kept separate from the others as I don’t want to risk anything going wrong when I’m not there or can’t get there fast enough.

My dogs and cats are great teachers when it comes to helping a puppy learn what’s appropriate and what’s not. All my animals are used to new puppies coming into the home and generally tolerate them well, but I still watch for signs from any of the animals, including the puppy, that they are uncomfortable with an interaction or proximity from the other and respond accordingly.

I spend time rewarding the puppy for stuff I like, the two main ones are usually watching the other animals calmly and coming away when called or asked to leave it. Because my puppy may not always get this bit right straight away I might use a light trailing line so I can prevent the puppy getting themselves into any trouble.  

Other dogs

I hand-pick the dogs my puppy gets to spend time socialising with, especially in the early days (first few weeks) when I want to make sure they are having appropriate interactions with dogs and I know they aren’t going to have a really scary experience.

When we’re out and about and likely to encounter dogs I don’t know, I tend to hang back with my puppy and encourage them to stay with me, rewarding them for making good choices like paying attention to me rather than the random dog. Once my puppy is a bit older, gaining confidence and off lead* on walks I’ll let them start to greet other dogs we might encounter where it’s appropriate to do so (I don’t let my off lead dogs approach on lead dogs).

*puppy is only let off lead once I know they can reliably come back when I call, even if they spot another dog, if they can’t the puppy is on a long line until they can.

Summer meets adult dog Brian

Other animals

I want my puppy to get used to and ignore other animals we encounter on walks, I don’t want them  to try and make ‘friends’ like they may do with another dog or my animals at home, nor do I want them to think chasing (or in Scout’s case herding!) them is great fun!

When we encounter other animals on walks, where possible, I spend time rewarding my puppy for checking in with me when we see potentially exciting or scary looking animals. We may also practice some of our other training exercises like loose lead walking or waits. We also work on lots of self-control at home, in anticipation of those times an animal might take us by surprise, like a pheasant hiding in the hedgerow that takes off suddenly!!

So, that’s how I introduce (or not) my puppy to other animals. It seems like a lot of hard work in the beginning but the big pay-off comes when I can reliably have my dogs be calm around my other animals, reliably be off lead around other dogs and ignore livestock* or come away from a pheasant they have just flushed.

*my dogs are always on lead where there is livestock or the chance we may encounter it  

If you need some extra help with you dog’s behaviour around other animals, including other dogs, we can help.

For help with recall, manners or loose lead walking our acuity sessions may be the best option

Happy Training

Clare and the Gang

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