Please socialize your dogs! Start early (in puppyhood) and never stray from this important element of dog ownership well into your dog’s adult years.
Dogs yearn to learn the world, relying on their innate abilities and senses, and benefit greatly by interaction in a healthy and positive way. Early and consistent introduction to a variety of landscapes, including people, kids, other dogs and animals in public places will go a long way to developing their sense of balance and well-being…and your contentment with your companion.
Ideally, you want the confidence that your dog has the ability to properly navigate new environments, that don’t always include you! Such as when you have to leave for work or take a vacation that doesn’t include your dog.
Too often, we see dogs that have become fearful and (some) react aggressively due to isolation at home and improper socialization.
Dogs that are isolated develop many problems, including aggression, timidity, or unusual shyness. They lack the confidence when around new people or situations and will either cower, pant excessively, drool, lower their tails, shake all over, attempt to escape the situation and in some cases, growl and/or bite (out of fear).
Think about the consequences of having to board your dog who acts this way.
If you are planning to travel and will be gone for several days or weeks, how will your dog react in that situation? Cage-free boarding is the ultimate option, yet is your dog prepared to be separated from you if you are his only world experience?
Consider the professional opinions of Daniel Estep, Ph.D. and Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D. in their article “Socialization: It Isn’t Just for Puppies”:
“Dogs have a sensitive period for socialization between the ages of 3 and 12 weeks. This means that pleasant exposures to people, other dogs and other animals during this time will have long-lasting influences on the sociability of your dog. Well socialized dogs tend to be friendlier and less fearful of the kinds of individuals they were socialized to.
Furthermore, don’t underestimate how important it is to continue to socialize your dog well into adulthood. We’ve seen quite a few dogs that seem to have been well socialized early in life, were friendly and accepting of people and other dogs and then began to react with threats or aggression during social encounters. These dogs had no traumatic or frightening experiences but became fearful and/or aggressive later, usually beginning around 8 months to 2 years of age.”
They cite an example of a client “Eddie”. Eddie attended puppy classes and had frequent contact with people and dogs during puppyhood and later. He was very friendly.
When Eddie turned a year and a half old, the family moved from the city to the country, and Eddie saw very few people or animals in his new home. At the age of 2, he began growling and lunging at people.
Why the dramatic change in Eddie’s behavior? While unknown, it is likely that Eddie became more aggressive, after the move, due to lack of continued social experiences.
Further support of the importance of socialization is cited by Michele Welton in “Socializing your Puppy or Adult Dog to Get Along in With the World”. She states:
“Un-socialized dogs often develop fears and fetishes. Fears and stresses are bad for your dog’s health. Socialization takes away those fears and stresses. You can socialize your dog to be calm about what is happening in the world around him”.
In the book “How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend”, by the authors of “The Art of Raising a Puppy”, the Monks of New Skete: (Chapter 19): “Your Dog May be Lonely”:
“Dogs are social animals, and they need to be included in a pack. Since we have deprived them of their normal pack – animals of their own species – and the freedom to set up social structures of their own, we must include them in our pack and help them adapt to human social structures. Many pet owners perceive their charges to be incapable of enjoying human company. The tendency is to isolate dogs rather than include them.”
So, what can you do to socialize your dog?
Positive socialization includes dog obedience or agility classes, daily walks in your neighborhood and local parks, visiting dog-friendly stores and restaurant patios, taking them with you in the car and visiting friends and family; preferably those who also own dogs and have an open-door policy to other pets, including yours.
If you don’t have a circle of canine-loving friends, jump on NextDoor.com; a free community “chat room” available in most neighborhoods that will connect you with nearby residents. Join and post your desire to meet other like-minded dog owners who might also be looking for social interaction with their dogs (arrange play-dates with each other).
Research local doggie daycare facilities and dog training camps that offer day-time play and classes (your dog will need to pass an initial temperament test to make sure she is ready for group interaction).
Invite people and their pets to your home so your dog can happily meet and greet them. Start with one person and one dog at a time. When they arrive, have them offer a treat and always talk in a calm and happy tone. This should be fun for everyone!
Run errands with your dog whenever possible.
Bring your dog to any Starbucks and allow him to “sit and sip” with you on the patio.
Go to a local pet store and let her pick out a toy.
Take a hike together! You will undoubtedly encounter other dogs along the way, yet the outdoor experience and new sights and smells will be over-the-top fun for your dog. (See our earlier blog for dog-friendly hiking spots in Arizona, titled “Take a Hike”).
If you are uncomfortable managing social, furry forays or introducing your dog to other dogs, please consult with a trained professional to help you. Our Resources page list local dog trainers who are highly recommended.
Every dog, regardless of breed or age, can be a party animal…it’s up to the owner to unleash it!
Hugs and party on,
The complete article by Michele Welton can be read @ http://www.yourpurebredpuppy.com/training/articles/dog-socializing.html