Mark Vette – Internationally renowned Animal Behaviourist, Educator, Author and TV personality

Raising Rural Dogs

RAISING RURAL DOGS

What’s different about raising and training rural dogs?

Rural and Urban/Suburban environments are very different from a dog’s point of view. When youre raising a puppy rurally, whether its on a farm, lifestyle block or just an isolated smaller property, youre living in a more insulated kind of environment. Further away from people, noises, other dogs and so on. 

Generally it’s easier for dogs growing up in urban and suburban environments to establish social behaviours with people (of all races and age classes), dogs (many different breeds) and desensitisation to high levels of noise, traffic and other stimuli, just because they tend to get more exposure (assuming their owners do the right training and socialisation, of course!).

In a rural context, pups can often be largely restricted to their own property, and so meet a lot fewer people and dogs, and have less exposure to road noise etc. They often also have less people coming into the property, and more warning when they do (e.g. vehicles coming down a long driveway or private road).  On the plus side, they are often much better socialised with farm species such as sheep, goats, cattle & chickens of course! 

Is it a problem? What’s the risk?

In this context, rural dogs can become more territorial and protective, and much more reactive to vehicles and people passing and coming in. Territorial behaviour becomes stronger the more isolated or insulated you are from other people, and it tends to increase as the pup hits puberty.

Rural dogs can also oftentimes be more reactive to the world when they come off their own property (if we dont socialise them well and train them to handle change and novelty!).

Because its generally easy to exercise a rural dog at home, sometimes they dont get as many walks in populated areas (on footpaths, beaches, dog parks etc). Also because theres likely less foot traffic past or into your property, there are less incidentalopportunities to socialise and train your pup and dog. 

This means they dont meet as many different kinds of people and dogs regularly enough, which can lead to fear, reactivity or aggression. They also might become sensitive to road noise, scooters, bikes, automatic doors and anything else you might find in town but less in the country!

You want to make sure you adapt your dog to the type of environment you and the dog will be living in over its life, of course. However it’s also a good idea to ensure your dog is adapted to a  more urban environment too, so that they are able to travel with you and generally have the ability to live or be in a variety of environments without distress.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE RAISING A PUP IN A RURAL ENVIRONMENT:

  • Get out and about to socialise and desensitise your pup to the world. Do it as often as you can, at least a couple of times a week until your pup is 6 months old.
  • Take your rural pup to town often, go to cafés or shops like Bunnings and pet shops where your dog is allowed in, ideally very regularly during the formative period of 2-4 months
  • Practise having people coming onto your property during your pups formative period (2-4 months). Reward your pup as people drive up the driveway, arrive, knock at the door and come in. Let your pup have a good meet and greet with any visitors to the property. Ask lots of friends to come over during this couple of months to ensure you get lots of opportunity!
  • Put in a good effort to get your pup meeting people of different ages, races, genders and clothing styles.
  • Even if youve got other dogs on the property, this may not be enough for dog socialisation to generalise. Your pup could easily be fine with your dogs, but reactive to other dogs outside of the immediate pack”. Take your pup to friends’ places to meet other vaccinated dogs, invite friends with vaccinated dogs over, and take your pup out to see other dogs and people in town too!
  • If youre not getting out often, use recordings of various noises to desensitise your pup to them e.g. fireworks, road noise, other dogs barking etc. Click and reward your pup as you play these sounds, start at a low volume then work up to a realistic volume. We use these sounds.

What else is there to consider?

If youre rural, you likely have plenty of animals around! Be sure to cross-foster your pup with all the different animals they might encounter in their life to ensure they are sociable and dont become predatory towards them – especially sheep, cows, horses, chickens.

About to raise a rural pup?

Our Virtual Puppy School shows you EXACTLY how to socialise your pup with other people, other dogs and all the animals they might encounter. By doing the right thing at the right time, you can greatly reduce the risk of behavioural issues down the track. Plus we cover all your basic training too!
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Worried about your rural pup or dog? 

If your pup or dog is shy, aggressive, fearful or becoming territorial – click here to see how we can help.

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