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Canine Socialization isn't something to be taken lightly, nor
is it something that you can put on the back burner. Canine Neurological
development doesn't occur when we have time, it occurs when puppies are young,
much of before the age of 6 months! This article outlines just a few of
the consequences. See the Mouse's
Socialization Article for a How-To.
A few guidelines:
Proper socialization takes
work. Allowing your puppy to play with your other dog is NOT
socialization. Ask any teenager if he/she considers spending time with
siblings as a fun Friday night activity. You will need to take your
dog out to appropriate events, activities, and environments. It may
interfere with your weekend snoozes. You might even come home with
another dog's slobber. And you may even meet other dog owners.
Proper socialization entails
your dog interacting with other dogs and people outside of your family. This
doesn't mean you let your dog loose at the dog park to get bullied or to
bully other dogs. This means a positive social interaction in which
you teach your dog proper behaviors. this means if your dog is a
little shy or reserved, you reward it when it has a positive interaction
with another dog or human. You can use treats, praise, and petting.
This also means that if your dog reacts inappropriately (i.e. lunges at
passing pedestrian), you ought to correct that behavior too. Please
see a professional trainer for help.
Just a few consequences when you don't properly socialize a
Extreme Fear and Shyness
- This is very common. I've heard so many times from new dog owners,
"We think Muffy was abused because she's scared of *insert
object/person/dog*." The fact of the matter is that it is probably
more often due to lack of socialization. Dogs fear the unfamiliar.
It's fight or flight, and most choose flight first. Think about it.
If you were in a new environment with another organism that had you on a
leash and didn't speak your language, you'd probably be little scared
too. We can't very well tell the dog that we're it's new loving owners
and that the leash was for safety. They just don't speak English, nor
do they have any desire to learn English. We need to learn their
Genetic Aside - Some dogs are
just shy and reserved. That is their genetic temperament.
I've known many dogs raised as newborns who were always afraid of men
(very common) or objects. These dogs had never had a negative
experience with men in their lives. That's just the way they are.
There are perfectly normal reserved human beings, and there are
perfectly normal reserved dogs.
Common mistakes in socializing:
1. Coddling a dog until it is so fearful of everything else it has severe
anxiety without you or begins to display fear aggression. Suggestion: Put
that dog down and let it be a dog. Don't spoil it rotten. It's a
dog, not a human baby (don't spoil those either). You aren't protecting
your little itty bitty dog by holding it close to your heart. You're
keeping it from being itself.
2. Letting your dog run amok and turn into a bully. Suggestion:
Learn some self-control and structure. Dogs like people need rules.
Let your dog be a bully, and pretty soon it will bully you - no matter what size
dog. You know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about your
neighbor's 3 lb fuzzy terror.
3. Encouraging your dog to be a bully. Suggestion: See a
professional trainer. Think about your own self-perception. I see
this often in people who think it's cool for their dog to be the boss.
It's not cool. It's a dog, not your manhood.
4. Taking Fido who hasn't left the house in 2 years to a huge gathering of
other dogs and humans - sensory overload. Then I hear, "But Fido is
such a good dog at home." Home isn't socialization. Suggestion: baby
steps at first. Keep socialization constant, not a sporadic once every 18
month type of activity.