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Issue:- 13 February 2013

Puppy Socialisation Plan launches to get Britain's dogs back on track!

ALMOST 1 in 5 dog owners admit that they are never or rarely in control of their dogs when out on a walk and half claim to be embarrassed by their dog's behaviour in public, according to research from dog welfare organisations, the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust.

The research shows that puppies that weren't properly socialised and introduced positively to new situations in the earliest months of their life are the most likely to give their owners trouble. With 12% of dogs being given away due to easily avoidable behaviour problems, urgent action needs to be taken to give dogs a better start in life.

Common problems that owners face on a frequent basis include their dogs jumping at people (29%), their dogs being anxious of being left alone (26%), their dogs being scared of people with facial hair (18%) and their dogs being fearful of household appliances (13%). A further 55% say that their dogs have been known to show antisocial behaviour (such as barking, growling, snapping or biting) towards other dogs, and 35% show antisocial behaviour towards people.

However, the research also showed that dogs who were well socialised and had positive experiences of other dogs, children, a range of people and noises in the home and outside of it, are significantly more likely to be well-mannered and confident adult dogs.

It showed that dogs that were not well socialised were 25% more likely to show antisocial behavior (barking, growling, snapping or biting) towards other dogs and almost twice as likely to show antisocial behavior towards people, than those dogs that had been well socialised as a puppies. On many occasions these antisocial tendencies are driven by anxiety or fear, with dogs that were poorly socialised as pups being three times more likely to show anxiety around new people, and twice as likely to show anxiety around other dogs and new household noises, compared to those that were well socialised.

To help tackle the problem of poor socialisation, the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust have launched the first ever step-by-step Puppy Socialisation Plan for breeders, rehoming centres and then new owners to follow. The plan lays out steps that will build puppies' confidence around everything from household appliances and traffic noises, to new ground surfaces, and a range of people, from those with hats and beards, to children. The breeder or rescue home will work through the first eight weeks, recording each step through a series of diary entries, photos or videos and this is then passed onto the new owner to continue.

Carolyn Menteith, a Kennel Club Accredited Instructor who developed the plan for the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust, said:- "The first four months of a pups' life are when a puppy is developing his soft skills; in other words his social behaviours and how he responds to new and novel things. Failure to expose them to a wide range of different experiences in this early period means that they often struggle to deal with new situations later on. A lot of the problems that we see in dogs, from aggression to all the behaviours that arise through fear such as noise phobias and separation issues; as well as poor learning skills and many training problems; can be prevented if they are taught lots of new experiences from the very beginning."

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said:- "We must remember that most behavioural problems in dogs, including aggression, noise phobia, separation anxiety, over-reactivity and learning problems, are not down to the dog wanting to be bad but are often because they are fearful, anxious or struggling to know how they should deal with a situation. This research overwhelmingly shows that putting in the hard miles at the beginning, when it comes to early socialisation and exposure to new experiences, will reap rewards in terms of a dog's future behaviour and state of mind. We trialled the Puppy Socialisation Plan amongst some of our Kennel Club Assured Breeders and both breeders and dog owners who have used it have said that they've never had such calm or well adjusted dogs. We urge breeders and puppy owners to use the plan so that dogs are happier and more obedient, which will solve lots of problems in the long run."

Clarissa Baldwin, Dogs Trust Chief Executive, said:- "One of the major reasons that dogs are handed in to rehoming charities such as Dogs Trust is behaviour issues; in many cases easily avoided behaviour issues. Our specialist training and behaviour staff work hard to help dogs with such problems and most are successfully rehomed as a result. The Puppy Socialisation Plan is used across our network of 18 rehoming centres and we encourage new owners to continue the plan once their 4 legged family member is home to ensure they remain as happy and well-socialised as possible. Dogs are expected to fit into many different family units which could include any combination of adults, children, dogs, cats and much more. They will have to accept the often loud and unpredictable sounds of their new homes; they will have to learn to be left alone when we can't take them out; they need to learn not to herd children, chase the cat, knock over granny, steal the Sunday dinner, or threaten the postman, or anyone else! It's up to us, as their carers, to provide them with the early groundwork in order to cope with all the varieties of life."

To find out more about the Puppy Socialisation Plan visit:-

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