The Importance of Socializing Your Pet

 

All dogs can bite.  We like to think that we can avoid any difficulties with our pets by simply choosing the “right” breed; not so.  Although you may not actually cause behavior problems in your pet, you can unknowingly reward them.  Since we know that it is always easier to prevent rather than change an established behavior: developing ways to make your pet a good family member and citizen should be an important part of pet ownership.

Biting is not the only thing we complain about.  Barking, jumping up, digging, house soiling, chewing on inappropriate items, food aggression and fear of strangers are just some of the things we don’t like.  Can these behaviors be prevented?  Of course they can.  Sometimes it is simply a matter of management.  Others require an active effort on your part to train and socialize your pet. Here are some ideas for keeping making your pet a good citizen.

  1. Teach your dog to sit.  This should be the first thing a puppy learns.  Any pup old enough to go to a new home is capable of learning to sit.  It’s OK to teach the command by using a treat.  The ASPCA has a great site that will show you how to teach a sit.  The importance of this command in your relationship with your pet is that sitting quietly is a prerequisite before any kind of interaction with you. That means that you don’t unthinkingly pet your dog should they bump or rub against your hand. Believe it or not if you are consistent about requiring a quiet sit first and socializing second, it will set a solid base from which to build your relationship with your new dog. 
  2. Better yet, try an obedience classThere are very few dogs that won’t benefit from obedience training.  It doesn’t have to be a competitive obedience class and it doesn’t have to involve harsh methods.  Look for something that will help you with basic commands and routine maintenance such as nail trimming, tooth brushing and socialization with other pets and people. The key is to establish good communication with your pet from the beginning.
  3. Get your pet out in the world.  You can’t expect your dog to comfortable in the world if they never get beyond your backyard.  Once your pet is properly immunized, wormed and protected from fleas, get them out to parks, for car rides and long walks.  If your schedule is extra busy, consider putting them in doggie daycare but please don’t just lock them in the backyard.
  4. Spay or neuter your pet.  This can’t be said often enough.  The reasons for keeping a dog intact are very few indeed.  Hormones will always get in the way of training. Worse, they can cause dog to dog aggression and lead to health problems later in life.
  5. Children and dogs should always be supervised.  Obviously this is not only important for the safety of the child but for the pet as well. Children can’t read animal body language.  They are often at eye level with a pet and may be seen as lower in social ranking than adults.  Children need to be taught to how handle their pet gently yet assertively.   Even when pet and child are both trained, they never be left alone together.
  6. Take your pet to the vet for something other than vaccines.  If you happen to be driving by the vet’s office, stop in.  Bring the dog inside for some treats.  Let the staff pet them and then go home.  You will be surprised how much more relaxed your pet will be if you do this a few times. 
  7. If you run into a problem you can’t handle, call a professional.  There is nothing wrong with asking someone more experienced to help you with your pet. The key is to go for help before a problem gets out of hand.

This is only meant to get you started thinking in the right direction.  Talk to your veterinarian about trainers in your area if you’re unsure where to go.  Just remember to have fun and always keep your pet social.

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