“Dogs should be left at home on the couch, not in public.” Too many times I have heard this or some other variation of this statement. We as dog owners are lazy at times, not willing to put the time in that our dogs need for socialization. In turn we have dogs that are not socialized, high strung, and unable to deal with changes in their settings, which leads to a very unhealthy dog. This leads to destruction of property, dog bites, higher vet bills, and a dog who doesn’t understand the world. Here are the top questions about socializing your dogs.
1: When should I start to socialize my dog?
A: The very first day you get your dog/puppy. If you are getting a puppy from a responsible breeder ask the breeder what type of training or socialization the puppies are getting during week 7 of it’s puppyhood, as this is when the first fear imprint period takes place. You want a breeder or foster home of the puppy to be working on positive environmental experiences. This is important as this can lead to how your dog reacts to everyday things in his or her life.
2:My dog meets people/dogs who come to my house and is fine. I don’t really need to do anything else do I?
YES! Dogs who may be fine with being in his or her own den (House) are most likely more confident, but as soon as your dog leaves your home, everything is brand new and that confidence will quickly turn into fear, which can lead to issues such as dog fights. This is also true about training; just because your dog is perfect at your home, as soon as the settings change it will feel as if he left his brain somewhere not understanding what you want from him/her. Dogs are contextual animals, meaning even though you were able to train the dog to sit perfect in your house or somewhere else as soon as you move him/her to a different surface, your dog will need to be retrained to sit, or any other command on that different surface or area.
3: What Social Activates can I do with my Dog?
A: There are many different things you can do to help socialize your dog, such as: Car rides, sitting outside of a store (training it as people come and go), puppy play groups, or professional canine sports such as Dock Dogs, Fly Ball, or Disc Dogs. There are also breed clubs (which do different activates for the breed of your dog), hunting (depending on breeds), walks, hiking, sniff and rescue, professional dog training classes, and much more! Check out Spirit of the Okami Blog “The Green Paw” for updates about different activities you can enjoy with your dog.
The main thing to always keep in mind is DO NOT rush your dog into something that he/she may be scared of. If the dog is showing fear, do not baby the dog, but instead slowly encourage the dog to make improvements, this means no yelling, hitting, or any negative actions from you as this will only imprint the fear even more so.
But most importantly, have FUN with your dog!