What is puppy socialization? Recently I shared an article explaining my hate for dog parks. OK, hate might be a strong word…more like my strong dislike for dog parks. If you read the article you will understand why I dislike them so much (if you did not read it here it is http://www.kdmathews.com/-bark-blog/just-say-noto-dogparks).
When people get a new puppy or dog, everyone says “oh you have to socialize them right away”. Somehow, somewhere the definition of socialization turned into taking your dog to the dog park to be around as many dogs as possible regardless of their temperament or disposition. Don’t get me wrong, I love the IDEA of the dog park. Dogs, off leash, enjoying the company of other dogs and people. Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Unfortunately too many dogs who shouldn’t be at the dog park frequent on a daily basis. Unfortunately, most dog owners have no idea what to look for in a dog who should or should not be freely socializing with other dogs. Unfortunately, not enough people are advocating for their dogs (and maybe they just don’t know how or that they should). Unfortunately, this leads to dogs being bullied, dog fights, and dogs who were once confident around other dogs leaving fearful and insecure. Just last week we were training our dogs outside of the Grimsby Dog Park and saw a dog fight break out within 10 seconds of one dog entering the park…not to mention the over adrenalized dogs running around in pure chaos, the humping (ohhhh the humping…non stop humping), and owners off in their own little world chatting or on their phones.
So now that we’ve cleared up with a brief overview as to why I do not like dog parks and why they should not be your “go to” for socializing your puppy or dog…you’re probably still wondering what the heck you CAN do to socialize your dog! Socialization needs to be productive and positive. Yes, getting your puppy around other dogs is important but it needs to be around the right dogs. One bad experience can affect your puppy for the rest of their lives. Most dogs who are reactive or dog aggressive were not born that way. More often than not, there was at least one bad experience that caused the behaviour and many owners can pin point that experience. The risk of taking your puppy or dog to the dog park is far too great and is not worth the potential consequences. Take your puppy or dog to group training, find a trainer who holds socialization classes, or find some friends or family with a nice balanced dog. However, getting your puppy or dog around other dogs is not the only component to socialization. Most behavioural issues come from fear, lack of confidence, lack of trust in handler, and not learning to follow. More important than letting your dog play with other dogs, is to expose them to as many positive experiences as possible in a variety of different ways. If you want to ensure you have a confident and happy dog who can go places with you then you need to take your dog to different places, let them explore different sounds and smells, touch and feel all kinds of surfaces. Here are some examples of what you can do:
- Take your dog to different dog friendly stores (most banks, Lowes, TSC, Rona, and many more).
- Using a long line (or off leash if your dog has a solid recall), allow your dog explore parks, trails, fields etc.
- Find any unique surface and encourage your dog to explore it (bridges, jungle gyms, tarps etc).
The benefits of giving your dog plenty of exposure to these different situations will in turn produce a confident dog who can handle most of what life throws it’s way. If you only take your dog to the dog park for socialization, you can expect the one time you decide to bring your dog into a new situation he will be anxious, misbehaved, and it will not be enjoyable for either of you.
If you need help socializing your puppy or dog please contact us for a FREE evaluation at 905-869-1170!
Canines In Balance