We all start off with a new dog and great intentions. We want to be good dog owners. We mean well. We (hopefully) prepare, do a little research, read up about what you’re about to get yourself into, and ask lots of questions before deciding which dog is the right one to bring home.
Getting a new dog is an exciting time. We have big dreams, hopes and plans that we selected the right dog, and that they will turn out to fulfil all our expectations.
If you’re lucky, you will end up with a good one. A well rounded, social dog.
So much emphasis is placed particularly on socializing puppies. Lots of dogs. Different people. New places. And rightly so. It is such a foundation-building, developmental phase that its importance is not to be overlooked. For some dogs, this will come easy. For others, it will be achievable, but require a diligent effort and proper guidance to make it all happen. And then there are some, that this will always be a tremendous struggle.
Puppy socialization 101:
Have lots of positive meetings, with lots of dogs, a variety of types of people, and make this all happen in different environments.
Such a valiant effort is put into this phase of socializing. We generally can say that if you are aware of the need and importance of socialization that you will probably do a fairly good job accomplishing this, during the puppy phase, or new dog phase.
Where we begin to fail our dogs, and see problems is in the “cooling off” phase, immediately following the initial socialization phase.
We did such a good job in the beginning, getting out and meeting new people and exploring new places that our dog was a champion and mastered their social skills. We begin to relax and forget the importance of keeping up all this hard work we just practised, and suddenly we find our dog isn’t quite as friendly as we remember.
Did he really just snap at that dog?
I think she just stared down that woman as we walked by, and gave her the stink eye…oh she totally did!
So what went wrong?
We began to get busy with life, stop making a conscious effort, and don’t take the time to give feed back to our dogs when they do a good job. They begin to lose confidence. Don’t feel bad or guilty. We all do this. We subconsciously begin to take for granted our dogs good natures, and just simply expect them to always be ok. They were in the past, why wouldn’t they be now?
The best way to ensure your dog remains a well-mannered and friendly dog is to make a point of spending some time regularlyto continue to work on socialization. Take a few moments at the park to stop and allow people to greet your dog, provided the situation is properly controlled to ensure a good outcome. Go to the dog park so your dog has a chance to practise and perfect their social skills with dogs. (Hint: mornings are generally the best time to meet other dedicated owners, who are more likely to have social dogs.)
If your dog has the unfortunate circumstances of crossing paths with a dog they don’t jive with, make an extra point of going out of your way to find ten of the politest pooches you can find, preferably ones you know without a doubt you dog will get along with. This will not only ensure your dog soon forgets the bad outcome, replaces bad thoughts with good ones, but gives an all round confidence booster. Make your dog feel good about everything they encounter within their world, and watch how their demeanor reflects this in a positive way.
If there was one final piece of advice I can give you lucky friendly dog owners it is this: don’t take your dogs friendliness for granted.
It is all too easy for one very bad encounter to begin the spiral down effect and unwind all the positive programming you have worked so hard on. Socializing your dog should be done like fine tuning an instrument. With precision and care. Do it in the beginning religiously, but keep it up, always.
See you all in the dog park!