Socialising a new pet – tips for a happier animal

Getting a new pet is an exciting time, but also a huge responsibility.

Just as with children, there’s a big world out there that we need to educate our pets about and socialisation is one of the most important things you can do for your new pal.

PDSA vet Vicki Larkham said: “Socialisation has a big influence on the behaviour and temperament of your pet. What they learn at a young age will likely shape their character for the rest of their life.”

While the saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ isn’t strictly true, it’s much easier to get pets used to new experiences at a young age.

Vicki continues: “For both puppies and kittens up to seven to eight-weeks-old, they are keen to explore and investigate anything new. After this, they are more likely to be nervous of new experiences and back away, so the earlier you start socialisation the better.”

Things your pet should get used to:

A wide variety of friendly, healthy, vaccinated pets – such as those belonging to family or friends; children and young people (always under supervision); people of different ages and appearances; loud noises, such as vacuum cleaners, washing machines, thunder and fireworks. Commercially available CDs can help pets gradually get used to sounds like these.

Travelling in the car – let them spend time in the stationary car in a cat carrier/dog harness a few times, then go on a short journey.

Being alone - gradually get them used to being left alone for increasing lengths of time, up to a couple of hours.

Before you start, remember that these experiences should always be positive ones. If your pet seems anxious or afraid, calmly end what they are doing, but don’t try to comfort them as this may make them interpret this as a ‘reward’ for their actions.

Don’t introduce too many new experiences in one day.

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