We all love our whippets for their cool, laid back and chilled out attitude at home. While this attitude is partly inherent, whippets learn life skills through socialisation. In this post I’m talking about Whippet socialisation: specifically, how to socialise your dog in a way that promotes an attitude of taking everything in a stride or two!
Table of Contents
- What is Socialisation and Why is it Important for Your Dog?
- How to Socialise Your Dog in 10 Steps
- Whippet Socialisation Summary
What is Socialisation and Why is it Important for Your Dog?
Socialisation is important for all dogs but especially for dogs that have a tendency to be aloof. As I’ve outlined previously in my guide to Whippet temperament, Whippets can be a little stand-offish by nature.
Socialisation then refers to the process as where dogs learn how to remain calm around people and other dogs in different situations.
For dogs that can be aloof, socialising training is really important. It ensures dogs are well-rounded and confident by exposing them to experiences that create the life skills they need to be happy and confident in a range of situations.
Since you’ll be walking your Whippet and meeting other dogs or taking them places where they’ll encounter people, you want to be equipped to cope with canine and human strangers.
When a whippet is unsocialised, they may become anxious, especially in situations where they meet new dogs and people. Anxieties borne out of poor socialisation can manifest in undesirable behaviours such as:
- Running away
Consequently knowing how to socialise your dog is an extremely important part of a dog’s training. Whippets that aren’t socialised are more likely to find encounters with strangers stressful and frightening.
This can lead to all sorts of problems.
The following 10 steps then are designed to give you some ideas on how to socialise your Whippet to make it more confident, less fearful and prevent it from developing undesirable behaviours.
How to Socialise Your Dog in 10 Steps
1. Start in the Home
Preparing your puppy for outdoor socialisation begins in the home.
Even before your Whippet has had its puppy vaccinations, you can work on basic training and establishing whether your it’s food-led or toy led.
Going forward with training, you’ll know if you need a favourite toy as a reward or a pocket full of tasty treats. Frequently, a combination of both works, but you can gain that knowledge as you teach basic commands in the home.
Of course, treats won’t work on a puppy who’s not interested in food!
2. Talk to the Breeder
Puppies brought up in a breeder’s home may well have some socialisation skills before they come to live with you. When you choose your Whippet puppy, talk to the breeder about their socialisation so far.
They may have been brought up in a utility room or basement and be used to washing machines and other appliances.
When the vacuuming was done, they may have been taken outside. Or they may have a positive association with it by being fed when the breeder cleans and vacuums.
Also, find out if they’ve had plenty of human visitors, including children.
3. Scary Appliances
Puppies brought up in a kennel or outbuilding, or those always let outside when the vacuuming is done, may have little awareness of appliances.
If your Whippet puppy is unaccustomed to household appliances, acclimatise them to things like the washing machine, vacuum cleaner, hairdryer and any other noisy appliances.
You can do this by playing with them right in front of the washing machine or feeding them next to the running vacuum cleaner.
Have your Whippet with you while you dry your hair and let them see how it makes you happy.
Motivate them with food or toys and always take a step back if they look worried. Introduce the new appliances gradually, first relaxing or playing next to them switched off. Then when it is switched on, in the case of moveable items, gradually let them see it moving and hear the noise simultaneously.
If they show the slightest concern, give them a dog treat to focus upon or start a game with a favourite toy whilst the appliance is left running.
If your Whippet struggles to settle when you’re vacuuming, offer them a tasty chew to occupy them and teach them that the vacuum cleaner is nothing to be afraid of.
4. Strange Humans
Inviting people to visit when you have a Whippet puppy helps it get used to different people.
If you don’t have children at home, invite friends with kids to your home to come and see and play with the puppy to helps your Whippet get used to children.
If your puppy is a little nervous, ask your visitors to gently throw treats until the puppy is confident enough to take them directly from their hands or to try enticing them over with a favourite toy.
5. Another Dog
Once vaccinated and given the all-clear to go outside, your puppy’s socialisation can be ramped up. It’s at this point that all your patient work indoors will pay off.
Begin by inviting a friend who has a well-behaved dog for a play date in your garden. Then follow it up with a walk together in your local area. Your puppy should follow the example of the other dog.
6. First Walk
Assuming you have followed the tip above, when you first take your whippet for a walk on his/her own, follow the same route previously travelled with the other dog.
This familiar route will help your dog start to build up confidence.
7. Always be Prepared to Retrace Your Steps
If something worries your Whippet when you’re out together, literally turn and take a few steps back to the point where they were happy, get them to sit or stand and give them a treat or a short play with a toy.
When they’re relaxed again, go forward, keeping their attention on treats or a toy you’re holding.
Once you have passed whatever worried them, give them the treat or another play with the toy.
8. One Skill at a Time
Please don’t overload your whippet.
It’s better to learn one thing well than to introduce too many experiences on the same day.
9. Age Matters
Generally, Whippet puppies are most receptive to socialisation up to around 12 weeks. Of course, this varies depending on the individual puppy and other factors, including previous exposure by the breeder.
Depending on the circumstances, if you cannot cover all the socialising by 12 weeks, then set out to undertake a wide range of socialisation activities by 16 weeks at the latest.
If your new whippet is a rescue dog and is older than 16 weeks but lacks socialisation, all is not lost. But you will need extreme patience and tenacity to help your whippet gain the desirable social skills for them to be calm in various circumstances.
There are a wide variety of situations that may be unfamiliar. For example, older dogs who have not been introduced to the car might associate it with bad experiences, such as being taken from their mother and dumped or removed from the home.
Of course, it may be that they have a limited idea about cars (or none at all) or they may not have ever seen them on the road.
Hopefully, your older dog has been in a situation where they have learned to communicate with other dogs.
10. Group Puppy Training
Once you’ve started the groundwork, it’s an excellent idea to take your whippet puppy to puppy training classes.
We took out Whippet to puppy training and it something we don’t regret at all. Whippets have an independent temperament and formal training classes can help in this regard. It’s also a great place to interact with other dogs and learn how to socialise.
How to Socialise Your Dog Summary
It’s important to socialise your dog for many reasons. Primarily you want your Whippet to be able to remain as calm as possible:
- In new environments
- When meeting new people
- On encountering other dogs
Dogs that aren’t socialised well can become fearful and display destructive behaviours. Since Whippets can be a little aloof they might be more prone to the negative consequences of poor socialisation than some other breeds.
Do you have any other tips for how to socialise dogs or any questions you need answered? Please leave a comment below.