Both socialisation and training your puppy are equally important for their development. They are not the same thing. Both provide different learning opportunities for your puppy.
Learning basic commands and having a dog that is a pleasure to be around are both highly important as is house etiquette, learning to focus on you whilst on the lead when you are out for a walk and being able to walk on a loose lead.
These are all stages that are achievable and it does not depend on the breed of dog you have.
There are four stages you and your dog need to go through and understand in order for you both to cope with everyday life:
Puppies need to get use to the sights and sounds of everyday life. It is vital to do this at a speed your dog can handle. Learning to read their body language is one key element of understanding when to push forward and when not to. If your puppy is not coping then you need to step back into a quieter area. Taking your dog into busy environments too early will cause a sensory overload. Make sure you carry your puppy when out and about before it has had its vaccinations. Stay away from parks and don’t expose him or her to busy main roads to begin with but quieter roads to let them get used to the noise of cars.
Introduce your puppy to new people gradually and not too many people all at once. All you friends may want to meet the newest member of your family but this should be done in the correct manner.
Your puppy will naturally get fear issues and be fearful of specific things – how you deal with this is very important. It is important to understand that puppies process their surroundings differently to a human. Dealing with their fear issues can either exasperate them or diffuse them and it is important to learn how to deal with the issue appropriately.
Puppies don’t instinctually know how to interact with other dogs and therefore need to learn this. Just as you wouldn’t leave a group of toddlers in a room together unsupervised without teaching them the boundaries, neither should you do this with puppies! Whilst playing with other dogs they learn about coordination and the social etiquette needed. It is vital to use experienced dogs with the right temperament and skills. It is also very important to avoid putting a fearful puppy in with a very bouncy puppy. The concern being that the fearful puppy could end up with fear issues and the bouncy puppy could become a bully. In addition your puppy needs to learn which dogs it can approach, which it should avoid and how to approach any other dog in the correct fashion.
Training provides your puppy with the skills and boundaries it needs to become a loving but obedient member of your family. Dogs need to know their limitations and boundaries and teaching them what you are looking for circumvents getting the behaviour you don’t want! Training builds a bond and a trust and you will begin to work more like partners.
Puppies can go into overload easily. It is vitally important that when they are first learning you should keep them from environments that will send them into sensory overload. They interpret the world differently to us and understanding this will help you understand how to get the behaviour you want from them.
Puppies come as a blank canvas. Teaching the basic commands creates the start of communication between you and your dog. Dogs want to please. Understanding how they learn and interpret their world gives you the key skills into opening up a new level of communication between yourself and your puppy – not just becoming friends but learning to work together as a team.
Your dog won’t automatically know what behaviours you want from them, this needs to be taught and will require time and patience from you. Shouting doesn’t help as they don’t know what they have done wrong. Understanding when to and when not to reward is also really important.
Finally, your dog needs to be taught how to come away from other dogs and to do so in a pleasant manner, so it will happily return to you when you are in the park.
Developmental stages, breed specific behaviour and your puppy’s personality play a part in the training process. All dogs have a personality and that personality plays a key part in their behaviour. Some dogs can be quite submissive, others very sharp and attentive to what is going on around them. Some just like being the clown; others can have a very possessive nature.
Dogs go through lots of different stages as they develop at a much faster rate than a human yet they never go past the mental age of a small child. Understanding these different stages will help you to understand your dog and it is also important for you as an owner to know when and why their mannerisms may change e.g is it a developmental stage or a breed specific behaviour occurring or just their personality?
There will be times your puppy will try to push boundaries as a young child would. There will also come a point in their development when their hormones kick in. Understanding these stages before they happen will help you to modify your training to take these changes into account.