Socialisation and training

Many dog owners fall into the trap of thinking that their puppies will inherently be naughty or angelic based on breed or other genetic factors. This is far from the case! 

The truth is that it takes time, work and the active participation of everyone in the household to produce a friendly, well-mannered and hassle-free adult dog. 

From 3 weeks old to 16 weeks old, puppies are primed for learning about people, other animals, objects and their environment. This is called the critical socialisation period. If they don’t receive adequate exposure, training and guidance during this period, they can develop into poorly-adjusted adult dogs who may be fearful, aggressive or destructive.  

Veterinary behaviourists recommend that at a minimum, puppies attend socialisation classes and that owners plan to input at least 1 or 2 short training sessions with their puppy each day. Puppy preschool is highly recommended as it is fun and educational for both you and your puppy and is a great opportunity to meet other puppies in a safe environment. Please ask us about the puppy school that we run here at the clinic! Our classes have been developed by Veterinary Behaviourist Dr. Sally Nixon and are based on the most up-to-date science of canine learning and development. 

It is also important that puppies are given opportunities to socialise even prior to the completion of their 16 week vaccination booster, which falls at the end of their critical socialisation period. In addition to puppy school, we recommend regular structured play dates with calm, well behaved older dogs, that are healthy and up to date with vaccinations and worming. These play dates should occur in safe, low disease risk areas such as a house or backyard, with no access to unfamiliar or unvaccinated dogs. 

Get your puppy used to being handled by gently touching their ears, paws and mouth and offering them a treat for being good! Many older dogs require their teeth to be cleaned, nails to be trimmed and tablets to be given. If you put the ground work in now, you will make your life far easier later on in your pets' life!

Behaviour problems - we can help!


Dr. Chloe Groves is one of our veterinarians who has been with us since Townsend Vet Clinic first opened and now works remotely. Dr Chloe has a particular interest in behavioural medicine and offers a behavioural consultation service via Skype to help you problem solve those frustrating issues that are tarnishing your bond with your furry best mate! 

What does a behaviour consultation involve? 

Behaviour is a complex and constantly evolving field of veterinary medicine, so getting to the bottom of a behavioural issue can take time! Gathering an accurate history of the problem is crucial, so we first give you a questionnaire to fill out about your dog or cat’s behaviour and lifestyle prior to booking your behaviour consultation. Your behaviour consultation will be conducted via Skype. This can be done at home, or in the clinic. Once you have completed your questionnaire, Dr. Chloe will contact you to arrange a time for your Skype consult. 

The initial consultation will take an hour and a half or more and will be an opportunity for Chloe to observe your pet’s behaviour, discuss their physical health, as well as to gather more information about their behaviour in the home or consult room setting.

Following this first session, Chloe will formulate a detailed behavioural report which will outline a diagnosis of your pet’s particular behavioural problem(s), a series of recommendations (which may or may not include medications) and a prognosis for improvement. 

What are the costs involved?

The cost of a behavioural consultation is $200 which includes your initial extended consultation and any follow up calls required to monitor your pet’s progress within a 3-month period.

After this 3-month period, follow up consultations are recommended for your pet if you continue to have concerns about their behaviour. A half hour follow up consultation is $40 and will include some ongoing phone support to monitor response. 

Please be aware that mental health problems in dogs and cats are complex and dynamic, and there is never an easy fix. Improvements are expected to be gradual and there will always be hurdles along the way. 

Can all problems be managed in- house?

If management of your pet’s behavioural concerns are beyond the scope of our clinic-based service, we will recommend referral to Dr Sally Nixon, a local veterinarian undergoing advanced training to become a fully qualified behaviour specialist. Sally has extensive experience as a behaviour veterinarian. Just like with physical health problems, some mental health conditions are more complex than others and require referral.