The pug is the UK’s third most popular dog breed, so it’s fair to say that there are a lot of pugs out and about all over the UK, and they are a common sight in most dog parks. This means that a significant number of people each year – some of them first-time dog owners – buy a new pug puppy to join their families, and it is important to have a plan for socialising your new companion and introducing them to other dogs and people.
In this article we’ll look at how and when to start socialising a new pug puppy, and cover the importance of socialisation for dogs as well as some breed-specific considerations to bear in mind. Read on to learn more.
Dogs are very social creatures that don’t thrive without contact with their own kind, and pugs in particular tend to be very friendly and social dogs that enjoy playing with others. They are comical, fun-loving and tend to have quite the sense of humour, and they usually make friends quickly and are keen to get out there in the thick of it in the dog park.
A pug that isn’t socialised with other dogs regularly won’t thrive, and it is important to begin getting your pup used to other dogs so that they can begin to learn the rules of canine play and socialisation early on.
A dog of any breed that doesn’t learn good social skills when young is apt to face problems down the line – they won’t know how to play or interact with others, which can lead to fear or aggression, and also, generate the same responses from other dogs that they meet.
Dog socialisation is something that should start as soon as possible – and your pug will already have learnt the basics from their dam and littermates. However, they also need to be able to meet and play with strange dogs that they will meet out and about, and the sooner that you begin providing opportunities for this, the better.
That said, your pug puppy shouldn’t go outside or meet other dogs until they’ve had all of their vaccinations – and waited the appropriate period of time for the benefits of those vaccinations to take effect.
When your pup gets the go-ahead from your vet, and they’ve had their vaccinations and a basic health check to ensure that they are healthy and able to start to socialise safely, you’re good to go. This means that your pug will probably be around three to four months old before socialisation with strange dogs can begin.
Anywhere that you walk your pug on or off the lead where they will come into contact with other dogs provides opportunities to socialise, but for your pup’s first few encounters, you might want to allow them to socialise in a more controlled environment.
A great place to start in this regard is with a puppy training class, which will give you the chance to begin training your pug under the watchful eye of a professional trainer who can advise you and teach you the best way to work with your dog.
Some training groups (and even vets) also run puppy socialisation classes or puppy parties regularly throughout the year, which allows you to take your puppy along to meet some other young dogs to play and socialise, so that they can all learn together.
Additionally, if you have friends with well behaved and social dogs, arranging to visit them with your pug in tow and having them visit you with their own dog will help to teach your pug about appropriate behaviour on another dog’s territory, and to accept other dogs into their own home.
When your pup is meeting and getting on well with other dogs within controlled situations such as these, you can start thinking about heading out to the dog park!
Adult dogs are generally very forgiving with puppies, as they instinctively know that they are younger and more vulnerable, and still learning the rules of engagement when it comes to play and communication.
This is another good reason for starting socialisation young – as well as being able to learn from other dogs, your pup will usually be forgiven for the odd slip-up that might garner a bad reaction if your dog was older.
However, puppies do need to learn from other dogs directly – which means being able to tell when another dog is annoyed or has had enough, and to take a warning growl or the other dog backing off as a cue to calm down. This means that other dogs might put your pug in their place and be firm with them when necessary, and it is important that you don’t step in and interfere with these interactions unless absolutely necessary.
Try to stay far enough back to allow the dogs room to be themselves, whilst staying near enough to intervene if essential – such as if one of the dogs is becoming aggressive, or at risk of being hurt. Other than that, leave well alone!
Even though pugs – and particularly, pug puppies – are small, they aren’t a breed that is generally daunted by larger dogs as long as they get used to them when young. This confidence gives the pug an advantage that many other small dogs don’t have, but it is important to keep an eye on play and make sure that your pug isn’t getting out of their depth in rough and tumble play with larger dogs.
Bear in mind too that the pug’s flat face makes their eyes more prominent, and so, at greater risk of being scratched or hurt. Also, due to the pug’s brachycephalic face, it is important to protect them from overheating from running around on hot days, providing plenty of opportunities to stop, calm down, and drink some water.
Finally, pugs that have a very flat face may suffer from BOAS or brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome – and this is something that you may not become aware of until your pup is a few months old. This condition places the dog at great risk of overheating and not being able to get enough air, so be very vigilant for signs of problems and see your vet regularly in your dog’s first year of life to assess their conformation as they grow larger, and to let you know of any problems.