Socialization or How to Raise a Good Dog
We love spring at Animal Family. It’s not just the warm weather either. It’s the appearance of all those cuddly puppies we see every year. After all, what’s much more adorable than a 7 week old puppy? The owners are great too. Generally kind and caring people who want to do everything they can to give their new friend the best possible start in life. That includes socialization.
This is the time when we talk about core vaccinations, worming and getting puppies on parasite preventatives. We go over food choices and house training. We also discuss socialization. Our owners are encouraged to enroll in puppy classes and maybe Camp Canine as well. All of this is great but is it enough?
When it comes to socialization, the answer is no. Developing a healthy, well rounded dog is long term commitment.
Are there perfect dogs? Are some dogs born unsocial? Much like people, dogs are born with predispositions for shyness, reactivity, fear and other traits. Still, even the best dog can be improved and poorly socialized dogs are not always a lost cause. Nurture can influence nature. That’s why careful, ongoing socialization is so important.
Socialization begins the moment a puppy is born. Littermate interaction teaches canine social skills while handling and controlled exposure to stress by a knowledgeable breeder helps make puppies even more stable and accustomed to human interaction.
Puppies need to see as many different types, races and ages of people as possible. They need to be exposed a wide variety of objects too. Show them everything from umbrellas to hats to cars, bells, livestock and bunnies. Don’t put the dog away when there is company. Have them meet everyone but try to keep it as nonfrightening as possible.
As soon as it’s safe, dogs really need to meet other species as well. Cats, rabbits, rats, horses, llamas and everything else that’s not poisonous. Be sure supervise to keep interactions safe but the more new things the better.
Remember, that even if your dog did well as a puppy they can develop problems as a young adult if they end up confined to the backyard at 5 months. A well rounded dog needs continued trips to dog parks, day camps and additional training. If you walk your dog, try taking a different route every time. Bring along a bag of treats and have helpful souls feed your dog so new people are associated with good things.
Even if your dog doesn’t go to camp, bring them with you to pick up food or medications. They enjoy seeing us when we give them a treat instead of a vaccination.
Remember your reaction can influence any canine to canine meeting. Please, don’t let the end of a tight leash be the way you introduce your pet to other animals. Try using a head halter (Gentle Leader) instead of a regular collar during walks. They discourage straining forward which can lead to excitement and aggressive behavior.
If your dog barks or growls, don’t punish them. It’s not the end of the world. Get some distance from the other dog and distract yours with a treat. The next time may go better. It can take time. Remember that even if you all you achieve is a dog who can pass another animal and ignore them that’s still great!
If your dog is able to do well at the dog park or day camp, even better. Just make sure you use a camp that temperament tests and groups dogs by activity level and sociability.
Finally, before you bring home a new puppy, research breeds and what their original use was. Compare and contrast breed traits with your personality and lifestyle. Recognize that there are variations within the breeds. There are aggressive Golden Retrievers and there are bully breeds that love every little creature, right down to tiny hamsters. Don’t forget to look closely at who you get your pup from. Puppy mills do not socialize.
So what if you do everything right and your dog still becomes, fearful, aggressive or overly anxious? It’s not hopeless. Consult with your veterinarian and have them recommend a trained animal behaviorist who can help you achieve a healthier pet.