Meeting animals, especially larger ones, can be a bit intimidating for some dogs, so it’s important that they have a positive exposure when they are young.
Trainer Leanne gives an insight into how we get our dogs comfortable around other animals.
Although they may not come across animals on a regular basis when working, they may be taken on visits to farms and zoos with their new owners, so we want our dogs to be happy and relaxed in those environments.
It’s never too early to expose your puppy to new things – as long as it’s at your puppy’s pace and is done slowly and positively. You can start when your puppy is still at the stage of being carried.
How to introduce your puppy to other animals
Here are our top 5 tips for getting your pup comfortable around other animals:
- Farms and zoos can be very smelly and can be over stimulating for a dog. Start with a smaller quieter environment such as a small farm. Find a quiet place and let your puppy take in all the new smells and sounds. At this early stage it is important not to rush things and start to introduce animals.
- On the next visit to the same place, again let your puppy take in the smells and sounds. When your puppy has settled let them look at some of the animals from a distance that your puppy can cope with. It’s important to start further away and gradually decrease the distance between your puppy and the animals. Make sure you look out for any signs that your puppy isn’t coping such as lip licking, yawning, shaking, ears back, and low tail carriage. If the puppy is showing any of these signs it may be too early to introduce animals, so take a chew and let them continue to take in the environment at their pace.
- If your puppy seems happy then you can gradually move closer to the animals. Make sure you reward your puppy for remaining calm. When at a distance your puppy can cope with, try giving them a chew. Chewing and licking releases endorphins in your dog’s brain which are the feel good chemicals, helping to keep your dog relaxed and calm and also helping to create positive emotions about the environment.
- Over time, and repeated visits, decrease the distance until your dog is happy and relaxed being near to other animals. Remember to always keep rewarding them for any calm behaviour, and if they display any signs of anxiety then take them back a step to where they were comfortable. It’s fine for your puppy to be curious and to sniff and approach, but this has to be when they are ready.
- Once your puppy is comfortable in that one area, start to progress to other places and other animals, repeating all of the above steps.
A confident pup is a happy pup
We want our dogs to enjoy working, so making sure they have positive exposures at a young age can help when they move through training and eventually to the person they are matched with.