Socialise Safely with Other Pets and Pet Lovers
Spending time with other pets and pet lovers can be a highly rewarding experience for both you and your furry friend! Meet some new cat and dog friends and their guardians too with these social ideas. Leading trainers, pet-friendly establishments and associations have offered their advice on how to socialise with your pet and what the top benefits are for both you and your dog or cat.
Start with training
‘Dogs are intelligent and highly social animals,’ says Canberra Dog Walks. ‘They are happiest interacting with a wide range of people and dogs.’ The dog walk experts continue that mixing with other dogs and pet lovers is the best way to give your dog the positive social experiences they crave.
They suggest a not-for-profit dog-training club as a great place to start. They’ll teach you how to understand dog behaviour and train your dog in basic good manners with people and other dogs. Then you and your dog will be ready to socialise in the wider world.
Canberra Dog Walks is a website run by a collective of dog-loving Canberra residents, providing free information, directions and maps for all the best dog-walking spots in Canberra. It also organises weekly social walks where you can meet more dog friends.
The benefit: Once your dog is trained, you can be confident that they will cope with the vast majority of situations when you take them out and about. ‘Having a well-socialised dog that is calm with people and other dogs means you don’t have to be anxious while taking your dog out and about,’ say the dog-walking experts, ‘You’ll be confident that your dog will cope with any situation.’
Provide a structured environment
Dog parks and off-leash areas are not the best places to start initially as they can be overwhelming for a dog that hasn’t yet been properly socialised, say the dog trainers at GooDog. Puppy pre-schools are carefully managed environments that set dogs up for success. Once your dog is socialised, another great place to meet dogs and fellow pet lovers are at dog sports such as Agility, Rally Obedience or Fly Ball.
Established in 2007, GooDog is a dog training school based on the Northern Beaches, Sydney. It provides classes for every stage in a dog’s life, with special sessions for rescue dogs, as well as in-home consultations. Dogs are taught a variety of essential obedience, tricks and agility.
The benefit: ‘Socialising dogs opens up a world of possibilities,’ say the trainers at GooDog. ‘It equips you with the skills you both need to respond positively in any situation. This means you’ll be able to go just about anywhere together, even on a holiday. Well-socialised dogs also recover more quickly if something scares them and can deal with new situations and stimuli.’
Find a fur-friendly café nearby
It’s important to introduce your dog to a wide variety of situations, people and animals when they are still young, says FurBaby Boutique and Café. Puppies tend to adapt to new experiences more easily than older dogs. FurBaby Boutique and Café includes an indoor off-lead play area where dogs and puppies can socialise with each other in a controlled and safe environment.
Located in Perth’s northern suburbs, FurBaby Boutique and Café is completely dog-friendly and considers all its customers, whether two- or four-legged, as family. As well as dining options for both humans and dogs, it incorporates a grooming parlour, pet store and doggy day care.
The benefit: ‘Socialising with your dog is a great way to meet like-minded people,’ says FurBaby Boutique and Café. ‘By taking your dog to the park and dog-friendly cafes, you are more likely to meet people who love and care for dogs as much as you do!’
Enjoy some fresh air together
Walking with your dog is the ideal way to experience the beautiful surroundings of nature and enjoy the great outdoors. ‘Your dog will love the different sights, sounds and smells of the natural environment,’ says Centennial Homestead. ‘As the seasons change, there’s always something new for you both to discover. This activity will improve the physical and mental well-being of you and your dog.’
As dogs love the outdoor environment, parks are ideal places for a spot of socialisation. Centennial Homestead is a dog-friendly venue in the heart of Sydney’s Centennial Park, offering a great place to break and meet fellow dog lovers during your walk. The Homestead features its own lawn where dogs can run, play and interact with each other, or choose to relax under a tree. Alternatively, they can dine on the outdoor deck with you.
The benefit: ‘They say dogs are great at determining the character of a person and we couldn’t agree more,’ say the pet lovers at Centennial Homestead. ‘The benefits of bringing along your pooch on your outing means you’ll be socialising with like-minded people who will love your pooch as much as you do. It’s a great conversation starter and stories of puppy mishaps and funny behaviours are great icebreakers.
Setting them up to succeed
‘Supervised socialisation with one other puppy or dog of a similar temperament and size is highly beneficial for your pet,’ says dog trainer Erin Williams. ‘Puppy socialisation programs can be another great resource for introducing puppies in a group situation, as long as the group is small and is conducted by a qualified professional to ensure that it is a positive experience for all the puppies.’
Erin emphasises that learning about your puppy’s body language is also vitally important. It can help you understand how they are feeling and therefore, you may be able to intervene before a stressful event. This can help ensure that interactions remain safe and positive for all puppies.
Beyond Dog Training is run by Erin Williams MDI CPDT, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer who has worked with a wide variety of dog breeds for over 30 years. She is skilled in positive training for Livestock Guardian Dogs, as well as anxious and deaf dogs.
The benefit: ‘The better socialised your dog is, the calmer and more balanced their temperament is likely to be,’ says Erin. ‘If your dog has positive socialising experiences with you, it establishes a trusting bond and close communication between you two, which leads to a harmonious life creating special memories together.’
Explore new terrain
Mutts With Manners is one of Sydney’s longest-established dog obedience and dog behaviour training organisations. Since opening its doors in 1994, it has helped thousands of people to understand and guide their dogs’ behaviour.
If you’re a Sydneysider, Mutts With Manners recommends the Glebe Foreshore as one of Sydney’s best dog-friendly walking areas. The well-maintained walkway takes you through a great variety of beaches, grass clearings and bushy areas for dogs to romp and play. Dogs are allowed to be off-leash most of the way, but the correct supervision is essential. ‘Be mindful of where your dog is at all times,’ warn the dog trainers. ‘Nothing distresses a dog more than thinking they’ve lost you.’
If you live outside Sydney, try to find a walkway with similar diversity so your dog can explore new environments and meet other well-socialised dogs.
The benefit: ‘Humans and dogs are both social species and thrive in an environment where they have companionship,’ say the trainers at Mutts with Manners. ‘Socialising with your dog enables both humans and dogs to engage with other humans and dogs – the humans have conversations with other dog owners and the dogs also make friends from both species. If you stroll at the same time you get the benefit of physical exercise – just what the vet ordered!’
For our feline friends…
Everyone in a cat cafe has in common a love of cats, otherwise, they wouldn’t pay the entry fees. A cat café is a great place to meet like-minded feline lovers,’ say the owners of the Crazy Cat Café on Australia’s Gold Coast. The atmosphere is designed to be relaxing, which makes it easier to get talking to people and make new pet-lover friends.
Crazy Cat Café has 15 cats in residence, providing visitors with the chance to enjoy some kitty companionship while enjoying a bite to eat and barista coffee.
The pet lovers at Cat Cuddle Café in Brisbane agree, adding that stroking a cat, or even being in a room with cats, releases endorphins in our bodies making us feel good. ‘It also feels great for the cats to be petted by people who love them,’ say the cat lovers. ‘This is particularly important for rescue cats, many of whom have been abandoned or mistreated and need to learn to trust humans again.’
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Help your dog deal with noises like thunderstorms and fireworks.