One of the most misinterpreted words in the dog world at the moment is socialisation and yet, quite possibly, one of the most important topics for you as a dog owner to really think about.
When we get a puppy in particular, everyone becomes a dog trainer and you are often told to socialise it with lots of people and dogs to ensure that it grows up into a well-mannered dog. What we will do is to allow our puppy to play with as many dogs as possible and greet as many people as possible. We will send them to doggy day care or puppy parties because that is what we are told will be good for the,.
But this philosophy can have the opposite impact and cause a number of unwanted behaviours so I would like you to re think about how you look at socialisation.
I teach and raise my dogs as if they were my children and therefore, from an early age, I teach them about strangers. One common mistake is that we allow our dogs to be stroked and touched, played with and sometimes even fed a treat by people we do not know. You could be walking down the street with people stopping you asking to stroke your new puppy and we will often allow that to happen.
Here is one example that I use when walking down the street with my puppy;
Stranger; ‘wow what a beautiful dog. Can I stroke it?’
Me; Hello, thank you for the compliment but I am afraid not, my puppy is in training.’
Now I want you to think about if that was my child;
Stranger; What a beautiful boy or girl, can I stroke them?’
Me; ‘Absolutely not!’
We would never allow this so why would we allow someone to do it to our dogs. Especially in todays climate where dog thefts are on the rise. It is more important now than ever to keep our dogs safe.
If we allow our dog to greet everyone they meet they will eventually learn that strangers mean something much more exciting than what you as the owner do and therefore you will end up with a dog who runs over to everyone in the park trying to say hello. It will also make your dog much easier to steal. This simple socialisation method can avoid lots of unwanted behaviours such as poor recall and lunging at people to say hello. Of course, if I saw my family member or friend I would allow my dog to say hello.
Remember it is our duty to keep our dogs safe.
The same is true with allowing our dog to meet all the dogs in the park. What our dog learns is that all the dogs he sees are much more fun. As much as we will try, we will never be as fun as another dog and therefore when it comes to allowing our dog off lead it will naturally run over to all the others dog and start playing. Not only could this be a dangerous outcome should your dog run over to an on lead dog, I would imagine, that you got your dog so that you can enjoy walks together and spend time together.
But what else are we teaching our dog?
A Social interaction should be a positive one. Imagine if I had met you for the first time and started wrapping my arms around you, jumping up and down. You would think that I was pretty unsociable. So why would this be any different for our dogs?
I teach my dog that I am the best fun it will get. If a dog comes over to my dog, I may allow it a quick sniff then I will encourage it back to me with a treat or a game of tuggy. A quick sniff in the dog would could be likened to a friendly handshake on two humans meeting each other for the first time.
Remember to think about what we are teaching our dogs. I want my dog to learn that I am the best thing in the universe so that I end up with a dog who WANTS to be with me.