AN OVERLOOKED ASPECT OF DOG OWNERSHIP
What comes to mind when you think of Socializing your dog or puppy?
Bringing your dog to the dog park?
Meeting as many people as possible?
A common occurrence that we often see as trainers is that many people believe that socializing your dog means allowing your dog to meet every person and every dog that crosses their path.
When trainers talk about dogs with behavioural issues (i.e. Reactivity, Aggression, Fear, etc.), we will often bring up socialization and ask questions regarding the Critical Development Period.
(The “Critical Development Period” is the time in a dog’s life when they are puppies, about the ages of 8 weeks to 16/18 weeks of age,)
Think of your puppy’s brain like a sponge, SOAKING up everything that is happening around them.
If during this time your puppy has something unfortunate happen to them, like being rushed by a bunch of dogs at a dog park, or being overwhelmed by strangers petting them, always being in a constant state of arousal, not getting out into a variety of environments to become accustomed to sights, sounds, smells, etc... these can all have significant effects on their development and perception of the world around them.
Ultimately this can cause behavioural problems that you didn’t think would occur by following society’s expectations of “Socializing” your dog.
Proper socialization where the dog DOES NOT INTERACT with things in the environment and instead is simply able to observe and being rewarded for a calm state of mind and behaviour is an overlooked but critical aspect in changing behaviour. It is also one of the best confidence-building activities you can do with your dog as long as it is done correctly. We as owners need to understand that we are much more than just an owner; we are guardians. Our dogs depend on us for many things, food, water, shelter, security and wellbeing (Physical & Mental). It is pretty obvious that our dogs can not communicate with us verbally, but they can speak to us in a multitude of other ways….especially for those that know how to listen.
Using advocacy in your socialization training is how you can teach your dog how to accept and adapt to new environments and situations. Watching the world around them and learning to be “unbothered” and “neutral” to other dogs, people, animals, and situations is a great way to “Socialize” your dog.