Although social skills may seem to be just a nicety, the level to which your dog is socialization, directly affects its temperament. A properly socialized dog is more likely to be even-tempered, less likely to show aggression or be fearful, and will have fewer behavioral issues. The ultimate goal of socialization is to have a well-behaved, well-mannered dog, who can be a welcomed member of your family.
Socialization, in combination with obedience training and neutering, create a well-adjusted, even-tempered dog you can be happy to take on with you on vacations, to parks, and on visits to other’s homes, without it being stressful for you or the guests.
What do you mean by Socialization?
Many people, often mistakenly, create overly structured routines for their dog. If dogs are not exposed to a variety of people, animals, places, weather, terrains, objects, sounds, they can develop fears of anything new, or of any change in their routine.
A properly socialized dog has been exposed to everything possible.
It is important to socialize your puppy from the time you get it. The younger you can begin to expose it to a variety of people, places and situations, the more success you will have with its socialization. Exposure should continue as they grow. As a dog owner, there is an inherent responsibility to regularly seek out, and take advantage of, new experiences.
Examples of different experiences include: people of different sizes, ages, gender, skin colour and attire. Different attire include people wearing different types of clothing (i.e. costumes or flowing dresses); different types of headwear such as hats, helmets or turbans, and sunglasses. It is very common for adult dogs to be fearful of men, children, people with darker skin tones, or people wearing headwear & sunglasses. Early, and regular, exposure to these types of situations is crucial.
Help to facilitate exposure of your dog to different animals – dogs (of all shapes & sizes), cats, livestock and wild life, as well as to many different homes and buildings. Staircases, especially open backed ones, and metal grates are often a source of fear for many dogs. Expose them to the traffic in parks, on streets. Have them walk on grass, gravel, in sand, water, dirt, snow, rain, while there is lightening and thunder. Use this as a checklist. Go on regular walks, and take different routes. Meet any willing dogs and their families. Fenced-in off leash areas, Dog Daycares and Cagefree Boarding facilities are safe and secure opportunities to give your dog the experiences that are an important part of their well-being.
What about Socialization with other dogs?
Your dog is born knowing how to be a dog. They start their socialization with their mother and their litter mates. Continued socialization with other dogs, is necessary, to reinforce their learning about the language of dogs – how to play, how to listen to reprimands, how to interpret another dog’s mood, etc. Dog language can be thought of in the same way as human language. If you were to go through life not having anyone around you who spoke your language, you would soon get pretty rusty at it.
Dogs can teach one another many valuable lessons, which they cannot learn from humans. For example, bite inhibition is learned at a very young age. Puppies are born with extremely sharp teeth, yet they are constantly ‘mouthing’ everything around them. Many people work hard to try to soften the play-biting of puppies, however, simply providing socialization with other dogs will cure the rough biting almost immediately. Basically, if they play too rough, they lose their friends. The other dogs will stop playing with them. Since they want to play, they quickly learn how to soften their mouthing, so that they have willing playmates. For another example, if you have a crazy, hyperactive puppy, usually around 5 to 18 months of age, socialization is the key to tempering his craziness. Older dogs, who know proper dog language, will correct him immediately, and in essence, take him down a notch. When he realizes he can’t get away with his out-of-control behaviour all the time, he will start to learn to be more aware of his surroundings, and respectful of others.
Besides the lessons they can learn, one must also realize that dogs simply crave interaction with their own species. They are pack animals, and as much as we want them to be a part of our family, they are still dogs. It is not fair to deprive them of their own kind. A happy dog, is one who can have the canine companionship they desire, and who can return home, a tired bundle of fur, ready to cuddle with their human family.
How do I know if my dog is getting enough exercise?
The better question might be, ‘What are the signs he or she is lacking in exercise?’ Dogs that do not have a regular avenue to work off their energy will develop problem behaviours. Destroying property, digging, chewing, licking, excessive barking, & aggression are all examples of unfavourable behaviours that can manifest from built-up energy. In addition, this build up of stress and energy will determine how they interact with you, your children, other people, and other animals. A bored dog, becomes a ‘bad’ dog, whereas an exhausted dog can do no wrong.
But I walk my dog? Why isn’t this enough?
Different breeds have different exercise requirements; however, in general, the occasional walk around the block is not enough exercise for the average dog. Many dogs that were originally bred for hunting, guarding or herding, now find themselves relegated a life of sleeping, eating and simply wandering around the house & yard. Such a daily routine, often results in weight problems and loss of muscle mass. For large breed dogs such as Labs, Shepherds & Rotties, this can prove to be significantly harmful to the joints, thus shortening their life-span.
Long, regular walks are helpful, but what your dog really needs is some ‘dog time’ where he or she can run, jump, play, chew & dig. Dogs naturally greet one another by jumping, mouthing, and smelling. Most of a dog’s natural behaviours are ones we tend to want a dog not to do. Kind of ironic isn’t it? Giving your dog permission to perform these behaviours in a specific environment, doesn’t mean he or she will expect to be able to do them anytime they wish. Dogs don’t generalize well.
For example, if they are allowed to jump up on & mouth other dogs to play, this does not mean they can expect to be able to jump up & put their mouths on people. Another example: One of the best ways to curb a digging habit is to provide your dog with an area that they are allowed to dig in. Give them a spot under a tree or out of the way, and bury treats or toys to encourage them to go there. Then, if they start to dig in a forbidden place, reprimand them, and take them to the ‘digging spot’ and praise them.
Exercise releases stress and energy, and is needed every day. Forms of exercise could include playing catch, Frisbee, wrestling with other dogs, and running in large open spaces. Your fenced yard or a fenced-in off-leash park is perfect for this. Dog Daycare and Cagefree Boarding are also wonderful options if you find your schedule too busy to accommodate your dog’s exercise requirements. Most dog owners report that after a visit to an off-leash park or Dog Daycare, their dog is less agitated, more relaxed and in general nicer to be around.
Article by: Cheryl Orletsky the DogGuru