Have you socialized your dog lately?
It’s a question every dog owner gets, more and more, due to Covid. Of course, more and more the answer is going to be no. Dog socialization is misunderstood.
Do you understand what socialization means?
Many people don’t.
Many kennel owners don’t.
I’ll admit, there was a time when I didn’t. Just ask Tango. We brought him to the kennel every day as a puppy. Unfortunately for him, it was over stimulating. It was a great life lesson. And now, he’ll come sometimes, but more often not. And that’s okay. He doesn’t need the stress.
Socialization isn’t a free-for-all.
It isn’t about letting a dozen puppies into a room and closing the door. All that does is invites a Hunger Games-style competition of which puppy can stay on top. No. Socialization requires active participation on your or your pet professional’s part. Puppy class isn’t a giant pile of puppies.
Socialization is the act of introducing your puppy to new things, places, people, and other dogs in a controlled environment so you can teach them to react appropriately, regardless of whether they’re on leash or off. It’s about the feedback we give them in the form of corrections.
Why does dog socialization require correction?
There will be times when your puppy will react inappropriately to other dogs. In the wild, the pack would correct them by nipping or barking at them to show them what isn’t acceptable.
That means when your puppy can’t walk by another dog without barking or lunging, then they need correction. Don’t worry though. It isn’t their fault. They don’t know any better until we teach them.
We aren’t just correcting our puppies though. How would you feel if strangers rushed up to you at every opportunity and mauled you with their hands or licked your face? It’s petting? They’re cute? Sure, but that doesn’t mean strangers should be trying to kiss your puppy. That goes for the two and the four-legged strangers. I don’t like when people get too close to me. I can’t blame my puppy if she isn’t happy with it either. What I can do is help her deal with it.
What about things though? Your goal is for a bullet-proof dog, the quiet, well-behaved canine that doesn’t react to strange noises or people.
You don’t want to see signs of fear or aggression.
- Pulling at the leash
- Lip curling
So how do we help them?
The first step is to give them discipline.
Can your daycare facility do this? Sure, but should they? No. They can surely support you in your effort but leaving them up to this task is too late. Much of this can and should be done before you take your puppy outside.
What do I mean? Name recall and focus training.
With both, you can help your puppy control their urges.
Loud noises don’t have to spook them if they’re focused on you.
Other dogs barking at them don’t have to annoy them if they know how to stay calm.
Your puppy doesn’t have to obsess over the cat either. Teaching her to leave the cat alone when he’s eating is a great way to instill discipline. Focus. Sit. Stay. It doesn’t matter what term you use; your goal is to keep your dog from tearing after the cat by teaching her to leave him alone, not by tethering her to a pole so she can’t do it. It’s about teaching her to not want to do it.
Is it going to be easy? No. But then again, owning a dog isn’t easy. It takes work.
So, what can you do to help with dog socialization?
Is it too late to start a plan? Never, so stop putting it off until tomorrow. The sooner we can start our plan, the sooner you’re going to start giving what your puppy is desperately asking for, discipline.
Teach your puppy basic commands: her name, come, focus, leashing training. Once she has a grasp of these then you can move on. Without the foundations then she doesn’t have the language to understand what isn’t acceptable.
When your puppy is ready to learn new things then you can slowly introduce her to new people, sounds, other dogs, etc. Start at a distance so she doesn’t feel threatened, then you can move closer.
When you find her reacting negatively to something then you need to correct her. Show her that a negative reaction is unacceptable or conversely that a positive reaction is always desirable. The corrections can come in the form of a spray bottle, hissing, or slight jab in the side. Within your plan however should be a solution for positive reinforcement where you use praise or a treat when she does the right thing.
There are two parties that you’ll need to inform. The first is your daycare provider. You need to show them what terms your puppy reacts to. I teach my puppies the term off if they jump, but that doesn’t mean you’ve used the same term. If you want your puppy properly socialized with other dogs, then you need to let the daycare know how you correct your puppy.
The second group you need to inform are the people who let their own dogs run amok on the street or trails. If an off-leash dog is approaching, then you need to let the owners know it isn’t acceptable. Just because their dogs are okay off leash doesn’t mean yours is. Worried about what could happen on the trails with another dog? Find trails that you can have more control over. Not sure where you can find an off-leash park that limits the number of dogs? Ask your daycare. They may know. In fact, they may have a safe space available for you to use.
The Foundations of Dog Socialization
Due to Covid, there are a lot of dogs who haven’t been socialized. As they visit a kennel, your pet professionals can certainly observe some of the issues that arise, but if your puppy doesn’t have the foundations for socialization then no one can “fix” anything. Puppy daycare is an amazing way to expand your puppy’s horizons, but you need to prepare them and your petcare professionals to make it easier.
Is your daycare professional aware of the difference between socializing a puppy properly and throwing them in a room with other dogs hoping everything will turn out for the better? You have every right to ask. Involve them in your plan. Ask them how they can help you and how you can help them. Trust is the number one value we sell. We need to trust that your puppy is as described and you need to trust that we can support you in raising a healthy, well-socialized dog. Book your socialization today.
Not sure why you should choose a professional? Check out this article here.