The biggest cause of death in dogs less than two years of age is euthanasia as a result of behavioural problems and the majority of behavioural problems in dogs are as a result of fears and phobias. It is therefore important to encourage socialisation by breeders, owners and vets, by positively introducing as many things as possible to a puppy in its first 16 weeks.

Socialisation should include mixing with a wide variety of different kinds of people and dogs in different situations so that puppies learn appropriate social skills. Habituation is teaching them to accept all the things that are part of their life including strange noises, household sights and sounds, thunderstorms, traffic, being left for short periods, car travel and a variety of other stimuli that are part and parcel of life as a pet.

Attending a well run puppy playgroup is one of the best things an owner could do with a puppy, such as the puppy parties we run at Bay Vets, included with your vaccination package.

Off the lead play if often thought of as the main focus of puppy playgroups, such play if badly managed, can lead to pushy puppies become bullies and nervous ones becoming fearful-and indeed lead to future dog to dog aggression issues and owner control problems.

Careful consideration should be given to matching puppies in pairs for off lead play. More nervous puppies may benefit from being let off the lead while confident ones stay on the lead.

Puppy play groups should start as early as possible so they are finished by the time they are 16 weeks of age.

The other advantage of puppy parties is that other things can be dealt with such as vaccination, worming, flea treatments, neutering and pheromone support. The latter can be very useful if the puppy does not settle at night and can give the owner a better nights sleep.