This morning I happened to be somewhere that was hosting a puppy party and what I observed has motivated me to write this post.
All day I have found myself wondering what the purpose of a puppy party is? I am not entirely sure but I am going assume it’s;
• To socialise puppies
• To teach puppies how to play with each other
• To prevent aggression
• To have fun
These sound like great goals don’t they? Who wouldn’t want to take their puppy here? There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that families that take their pups to these parties have the best of intentions and I am also sure this is the goal of the person/establishment hosting the party.
This leads me to my post title; Meaning no harm is not the same as causing no harm.
What I witnessed was a small penned in space with multiple puppies of different ages and breeds, no escape route or items to interact with, sniff, explore or engage with. These pups were placed into an area and forced to ‘play’ and ‘socialise’ with each other.
In the short time I was present I heard fighting, the host shouting at the puppies, telling the puppies off, clapping, puppies being evicted for being ‘aggressive’ and puppies being ignored whilst they desperately tried to communicate with their family that they wanted to get out!
As well as the devastation I felt for these poor puppies my heart was breaking for these families receiving such terrible news that their puppy was ‘aggressive’ or ‘timid’
If I now reflect upon the goals from above and compare them to actually what I believe those puppies learnt;
• Many will have learnt that social interaction with dogs is unsafe, some will have learnt that social interaction means jump all over another puppy
• Many will be worried about playing with other dogs after this session and others will have learnt playing with another puppy means to jump all over each other, with no regard of how another puppy may feel about it
• Many puppies learnt that their body language and communication signals about being worried are ignored by other puppies and their families. They may in future feel they need to make it clearer that they are not happy (perhaps their efforts will escalate to barking or growling next time, which they possibly will get in trouble for)
• Some puppies won’t have had any fun at all, some will have learnt that rough and tumble is the best game ever; which will make recall or following instructions around other puppies near on impossible
As well as these points the puppies will have learnt that strangers can be unpredictable, they may shout, they may clap and grab them. Next time they see a stranger they will be more wary. They will have also learnt that their family sometimes ignore their cry for help, for support or comfort. They may start to associate that place as unsafe which could even trickle into disliking car journeys if that is how they travelled there!
This post is about trying to educate and help families and professionals understand that we need to ensure our pups are supported and given opportunity to explore, learn and develop at their own pace in a safe environment.
The first few months of having a puppy is precious but they grow up so quickly, the time you have with them should be spent building a magical, trusting and fun relationship between you.
Puppy training and socialisation is important but the right puppy training and socialisation is more important, please do your research and attend classes or a party run by qualified trainers/behaviourists that use kind, ethical and science-based methods for you and your puppy
If you are unsure please get in touch, I would be more than happy to direct you