After agonising over the pros and cons of early socialisation and seeking veterinary advice on the subject, I ultimately decided to allow our puppy Lila to play host to a few fully immunised canine guests during the month before her second vaccination at twelve weeks. I didn’t want to isolate her during that critical period of development and risk her becoming a social misfit (in the doggy world). I therefore set about inviting the kindest of dogs with the most accommodating of owners to our home. Lila learned a lot. And she remained disease-free.

With her second vaccination finally under her belt, we headed off to a puppy preschool with the expectation of plenty of opportunity for her to mingle. To my amazement, most of the other owners were even more protective of their pups than I! Strangely so. Every time our sweet little chocolate Lab approached, the owners would swiftly reel in their charges. Terribly disappointing for Lila. And for me. The puppies were expected to line up like robots while the instructor delivered a lecture. (Lila couldn’t be bothered with this and would instead take great pains to distract the puppy sitting quietly next to her and invariably annoy its owner.)  [read more below]

[wpvideo 8Wbsfmge w=484]

After a few such sessions, it seemed desirable to transfer her to another school where puppies were allowed to romp off lead within the confines of some derelict tennis courts. When we arrived there one cold, wet morning (now deemed a blessing in this drought-stricken part of the world), I looked at the dozen or so other puppies rough-and-tumbling on the soaked courts and they were HUGE. All of them six months and under I was assured, but some of them had reached adult size and they were not small breeds.

Nevertheless, I took a deep breath, squeezed quickly through the gate with Lila (making sure no puppy sneaked out) and let her loose. Without a moment’s hesitation, Lila was off and running. Dancing. Exuberantly zigzagging through the crush of puppies and humans with the greatest of confidence. Sailing. Leaving other puppies in her wake. Toppling a brawny Bernese Mountain Dog who lost his footing while trying to cut her off at the pass. All that socialisation during her first month with us had clearly paid off. She was the life of the party.

[If you have received this post by email, please click “dog downunder” or “when you’re the littlest pup at school, it pays to be fast” in order to view accompanying video in a web page.]