Introducing safe play and socialisation into your dog's routine is essential. Dogs use active and healthy play to explore, learn key socialisation and communication skills. Active playtime satisfies a range of needs including reducing boredom for your dog and also giving them the freedom to follow their natural instincts whilst in a polite society. In short, safe and healthy play with your dog will strengthen your bond and help you keep them from developing any undesirable behaviours.
In general, playtime with your dog should be a fun and exciting time together. This could include a regular game you play with them (e.g. throwing their favourite ball) or new activities together. Some easy guidelines to remember when beginning play with your dog include having them follow your lead by always starting and finishing the game on your terms and leading by example. You should always use dog toys and never your own body as this could lead to rough play. Examples of this include neck biting to holding, pinning or growing and baring teeth.
It's important to keep in mind that all dogs are different individuals which means that they have their own personalities and interests and this will play a big part in their playing style. Some dogs will be confident and vocal players whilst others can become nervous. They can also recognise these main differences in other dogs which is why they may make friends with certain dogs and not others, just like us as humans! Body language is a big help for telling us how our dogs are feeling during a play session with another dog. A happy dog will generally exhibit relaxed body posture tail wagging and continue to go back for more fun.
Socialisation for your pup should ideally start as early as possible. There are plenty of puppy classes around that are in safe and controlled environments which will allow your pup to meet other pups as well as their owners. This helps them to learn how to interact with other puppies and to also overcome any feelings that they might have of anxiety or aggression. It might look as simple as playing to the puppy’s owners however through socialising with your dog in an unknown but safe environment they will begin to trust others and also learn the behaviour that is expected of them from their individual owner. Giving your dog regular socialisation shouldn’t just end with puppy classes as a lack of ongoing socialisation can lead to anxiousness or aggression in some dogs. Good examples of regular socialisation for your dog include regular walks, dog parks, Doggy Daycare or even just play dates with friends or family's pets.
Should you ever have concerns about your dog's behaviour or socialisation skills, contact AdelaideVet and ask us about our animal behaviour service for advice and support.