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Puppy Rumbles, Puppy Parties and Play.

Socialising your puppy does not mean lots of free running with other dogs in the park whilst the owners stand still and chat. We are seeing many cases, more than usual at the moment, of puppies who are being taken to play with other puppies either in the park or at a vet surgery or daycare and who are now starting to show antisocial behaviours around other dogs.

Dog to dog interaction and managing play needs to be done so carefully to ensure it's a positive experience for all involved and takes a lot of observation and interrupting to prevent problems arising.

A social dog is one who is relaxed in the presence of other dogs, can read when another dog wants to interact and when they don't. Puppies typically learn nothing beneficial from playing with other puppies. Puppies do not all have a good understanding of social cues and will miss the subtle signs that another puppy does not want to play with them. This then causes the subtle puppy to either have to react in a stronger manner (i.e. barking, snapping and chasing the pup away) in order to obtain social distance or scares them into running away.

If your puppy runs over to every other dog he sees, teach him to be calm by keeping him under control with a long line or short lead and reward him with a treat for looking at the other dog. The more this happens, the more he will look at a dog and associate a reward from you - and will remain calm. You'll need to practise at a distance at which he can take food to begin with.

Do not go to the park and stand chatting to others whilst the dogs run and wrestle. This forces interactions to go on longer than is beneficial and teaches puppies to either be completely dog-focussed and OTT "he's only playing" or scares them because their attempts at avoidance are ineffective.

Aim for short, calm greetings with steady adult dogs. If your puppy is worried (avoiding, barking, jumping forwards and backwards, lip licking, ears back etc), be your puppy's mobile safe space by bending down to offer support and backup if he needs it in the form of a quick pet. Gently buffer the other dog away from yours whilst bending down if needed, keeping your puppy free and this will help your puppy gain confidence knowing you're there as backup if needed.

On lead interactions should last no more than 3 seconds. That's plenty to say hi, essentially shaking doggy hands then move on. Dog cannot properly play when on lead so any longer than 3 seconds tends to lead to frustration from one or both.

PLAY with your puppy on a walk! Their source of fun should not solely be other dogs. Get yourselves a sheepskin toy from Tug-e-nuff and have mad games with them!

Make sure to check out our video on puppy body language too which will help you read your puppy and other dogs.

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