Our Platinum Services - Platinum and Super Platinum – an essay on the importance of puppy socialisation

Our Platinum Service

A puppies socialisation period (4 to 16 weeks) is the most critical period for influencing dogs temperament, character, behaviour and thus avoiding problems in the future. Preventing potential problems is far more effective and trying to correct issues when the dog is older. Unfortunately it is a ‘thing’ we see here under our promise to always take our dogs back if there is a ‘problem’; 90 per cent of these problems come from lack of time being put in proper puppy socialising which can lead from anything from inappropriate barking, chewing, separation anxiety and aggression, all of which can lead to higher chance of a dog biting.

The term "socialisation" in simple terms means the learning process that a puppy must undergo in order to learn key life skills to ensure that it is happy and confident in its environment, and can communicate effectively within its social group. We ask a huge amount from our dogs in their role as a companion animal, as not only do they need to understand humans and the human world, they also need to become fluent in the language of dog.

This involves having pleasant social interactions with adults, children, vets, adult dogs and other animals, as well as careful exposure to different situations in the environment like traffic, crowds, travelling in the car, vacuum cleaners and any sights and sounds it will have to cope with in life. It is so important that this is done thoroughly and correctly when your puppy is still young and he is young enough to happily accept new things.

Up until now there was no definitive plan for effectively socialising your puppy, which was resulting in rescue centres seeing increasing numbers of dogs coming to them with behavioural issues that could have been avoided with proper socialisation. In order to counteract this, the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust have jointly devised a socialisation plan for both breeders and new owners to follow as a step by step guide - it is called the Puppy Socialisation Plan. Both the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust recommend the Puppy Socialisation Plan as an effective plan for breeders and new owners to prepare their puppies as best they can for life as family pets. It is simple to complete, and can be tailored to suit you and your lifestyle, so it is highly recommended that novice breeders and new owners follow the Plan.

Our Platinum Service One

Our Platinum Service number one – 4–8 weeks of age

We use the word ‘platinum’ service since we genuinely believe that we offer a gold service to each and every puppy as it stands without fail. In the past few years we have noticed that when we start working with our puppies (i.e. the ones we have chosen from a litter for ourselves) that the extra work we put in from six weeks made a huge difference in the long run.

So what can we do ‘extra’ for you?

Week 4 – Fun, games and tactile tasks

We have a great couple of mats with differing textures on; by now we are taking pups up to the office where life is a bit busier, we have a pen, crate and bed plus all the toys. We ask them to experiment, cardboard boxes don’t last very long, old blankets make great things to burrow under. But it is all safely supervised by whoever is working in the office with them. So tug toys, Kong’s, plastic bottles without the lids…it’s not a quiet play I can assure you of that!

Each puppy is now taken individually away from his litter mates. Our main task is to make him feel confident and safe in a humans care. We continue getting them used to being handled; now we start putting our hands in their mouths, tickling and rubbing their feet and gently massaging their ears.

It is now a good time to get the pups used to being gently restrained. We hold them gently for a few seconds before letting them go, building this up to 30 seconds with plenty of reward. Life is now getting interesting for them and their confidence is building. At this point they come and spend time in the house with whoever is available, visitors often see Tabitha and Tilly carrying pups in and out of the house or I take them for a drive in the car if I am popping out.

At six weeks of age the pups are still with their mother so the first few days is taking the pup out of their kennel with their mother at their side and encouraged to follow their mum and one if us around and about, up the side of the house where we often have thundering lorries and Tractors, into the Orchard to see the other dogs, and on to the field to see the world at large. When the pup is happy with this, Mother is left behind (usually having a well-earned nap in a sunny spot or in front of the fire in the Office).

From this point pups should be happily trundling round after our boots, often tripping us up in their closeness. From here the collar and lead comes naturally closely followed by introduction to crates and cars. You are very welcome to post us a bed for your puppy which we will move between car and crate. We have crates set up in the office so pups can spend time in their bed and get used to a crate in their own time. We can also start the sleeping by themselves for you if you are concerned about this factor.

It is incredibly important that pups are socialised with many different people and environments at this early age. Hence all pups will be handled by Matilda and Tabitha (Anne-Marie’s daughters) finding the puppies all over the family home in and out of bedrooms and being introduced to YouTube and the like. The socialising also includes various trips around the house whilst our lovely office manager, girl Friday and cleaner Louise is wading her way through the house dogs and cats. She has become quite an expert with cleaning and looking after pups at the same time.

The pups are picked up and cuddled and carried, rolled over and tickled. Tabitha and Tilly are best at this but we also send our ‘Saturday boy’ in to sit and talk to the puppies so it’s not a too female dominated environment. I have tried to persuade them to wear varying wigs of choice but the look I got from them both plus the use of the words ‘inappropriate child rearing’ has knocked that on the head. So all take their turns in sitting on the kennel floors letting the pups approach them in their own time. If we think they are nearly ready for food we make the puppy food up into a sloppy paste and let the pups lick it off our fingers. Different textures are offered to them, a woollen scarf, and a rubber glove, anything we can think of, plus roll an old baby’s soft ball around in front of them. In fact old baby toys are perfect. If you have any spare please donate them to us?

We change the light levels during the day depending on the time of year, if it is warm enough the heat lamps go off and the flourescent on, we encourage them to take a look at the big bright outdoors and let the evening light fade to twilight till we put the lamps back on.

If we think it’s right we let the older dogs come and investigate. Bubbles especially is very interested in other dog’s pups, no idea why, she just is and will come and have a nose around at any point if given a chance.

Week 6- 7 - Curiosity

Now it’s time for them to meet as many different people and things as possible, our own dogs and cats provide a good start and any friends visiting are encouraged to go and see the pups (doesn’t take much!), so gruff voices, men with beards, hats, hoodies, people laughing and chatting, bikes, prams, anything new and safe is encouraged.

Now they are happily eating solid food we feed them in differing bowls, plastic in the morning (stops a lot of clanking!), and metal during the day. We teach them to eat from our hand too. This does not always come naturally.

Collars go on for a few supervised minutes to begin with, then we add a baby lead so they can get used to this strange attachment. For us this is a very important time to get your basics of recall and walking to heel in place. Now they come outside one at time and we work on getting them following us about as we wander round doing various tasks. By using their natural instinct to stay close works wonders so when we introduce a lead to the equation. During one of walks round we gently attach a lead and a puppy keeps trotting next to us. Some like to chop and change which side they walk on, this doesn’t matter, we just quickly swap the lead hand round.

At this point you can have eye contact with them, call their names, pop them in the crate in the car for a little journey to the shop for something I have forgotten to buy (happens quite a lot!). I lift the car boot up whilst I am in the shop so the pups can see a bit more of the big wide world and the people that stop to admire them always helps.

All of this does make a difference however it is not suitable for some people with a little more experience under their belts and feel confident with the first few weeks of having their pup at home. We charge £150 for this work and feel every penny is well earned and really helps the pup and his or her development for the long term. Please let us know if you are interested sooner than later and then we can get going on it for you.

Our Platinum Service Two

Our Platinum plus service 2 - 4 - 15 weeks of age

From week four to eight we follow the same path as the normal ‘platinum’ but as we near the first set of vaccines we can now start to increase socialising with all the things that are going to be day to day in a dogs life – babies, children, other animals, livestock, cars, buses, lorries, tractors, pubs, friends houses, the list could be endless. For the next 8 weeks he is still learning about who is in his social group and who is not. We introduce pups to our pony if requested but its done in a controlled manner and the reverence that a grumpy Shetland deserves!

The above is split into two parts – one is the things your puppy to be friendly towards and play with and look on as being part of their social group such as men with beards, wheelchair users, toddlers, umbrella carrying people. In a perfect world you could ask these nice people to give an extra fuss or to give the dog in question a treat from your hidden bag of them. Ernie was taught this at an early age and now sits down at the sight of any stranger smiling happily at them with ears pricked, his particularly fluffy tail thumping the ground gently. Sadly most just wander past so his ears deflate but yet full knowing that I feel sorry for him and normally a sack full of yumminess in my pocket with soothe any hurt so he turns to me with head on side and a stuck out lower mouth and is soon rewarded by myself.

The other stage is teaching your puppy to accept as normal, not worry about and completely ignore like cats as a prime example. If you are in a rural area, then farm animals are a must to be ignored. Tractors and Sprayers trundle pass up during the year and local shoots are extremely close (right next door) with the appropriate blasts of whistles and shot guns during the day. Our local churches offer Sunday Services will all animals welcome which is a lovely thing to take part in.

Week 9-15

This can be a difficult time to begin with because many of the pups will still not be able to go out in the big bad world. Depending on which vaccines; pups are able to be put down and walked from 11 weeks and some from 13 weeks. Here we introduce them to our own dogs in the house who are reasonably patient and understanding of the young upstart asleep in their bed. We have the advantage that the pups will follow the bigger dogs outside to the loo so they can cotton on much quicker than a no dog household that poo-ing is not acceptable in front the TV but fine on the grass.

We spend time driving the pups around, carrying them round local towns, sitting by the A12 waiting for Tillys school bus to arrive. We work on grooming, being bathed, encouraging him to get used to spending time by themselves (and especially important) sleeping through the night by themselves without a noise.

Once they are out and about (and having done all the groundwork) we can get going out in the big wide world. Our first port of call is the beach, summer or winter. It enables us to let the pup off the lead on the vast expanse of sand that Southwold offers. We choose the quietest bit (down by the harbour and the lifeboat museum if you are interested) and off we go, lead off and onwards. The best bit about here is we can always see the pup, no brambles or woodland to dive into, it also enables us to see oncoming dogs and owners. Not all dog owners understand that on the sight of a small puppy means they should recall their Lurcher or suchlike coming towards us like a bullet. Words have been said in the past…..there is a great need to socialise with unfamiliar dogs (I have had Tango whisper to me ‘what on earth is THAT!?’ at the site of a blood hound) but it needs to be done safely and calmly

This is also the time when eating stuff they shouldn’t’ or chewing it kicks in so we need to keep a diligent eye on the pup, removing the school shoe and replacing with a Kong or suchlike in an instance. This requires a firm authority. I am especially good at suddenly bellowing ‘NO’ to a puppy even though Tabby has tried to make sure this doesn’t happen in front of her friends.

We also have a very long checklist for each pup this includes squealing toddlers, people wearing hats, churchyards (which some pups REALLY don’t like), joggers, teenagers, people in wheelchairs etc etc etc

We do all the above on a daily basis plus keeping up the good work with obedience and lead walking. There are a few local shops that are happy to let us into with the pup in tow (the secretly love giving the pups a fuss). In finer detail we encourage them to eat from different shaped containers, drink their water from different vessels too. To take food from a hand to promote trust.

I could, quite simply, go on and on but hopefully you have the idea but please feel free to ask as many questions and we are happy to answer and take time with you.

Your puppy leaves here with their own crate and bed, toys, blanket and lead and collar. For the full platinum plus service we charge £875 on top of the price of the puppy. Puppies are very good at adapting at this age so you will still have ‘your’ puppy who wont mind leaving us at all. Most leave here and walk into their new home, find their crate and bed and snuggle up. We will have gone through everything you need to know and we are always here at any point as per usual if you have any worries however dippy you think they are I can assure you they are not.

Okay I appreciate it sounds like a whole lot of money but it does include home accommodation and being fed with best quality food, vaccines and flea and worm treatment. Weeks and weeks of specialised training and socialising.

At the end of this you will have a well trained easy to handle, social puppy who will be a pleasure to take out and meet other dogs and people and sit happily by your leg whilst you have a chat with an old friend and / or curl up quietly under the table at your local pub. Returning home when bedtime appears he will go happily to his crate without a murmur and be silent until the morning has broken.

So yes on the face of it, it isn’t cheap but when you add all the detail up it does look very good value!

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