By Joel Monroe &
Please direct any questions or comments
to Joel Monroe firstname.lastname@example.org
A dog should see the world and realize
it is a safe, fun place. The best age to start socialization is
as soon as possible. There is a saying, "A young, green tree
is easy to bend and shape; an old, established tree is nearly impossible
to break." Confident dogs are happy dogs that are created through
proper socialization. It is essential.
Socialize your dog with as many different
people as possible. When I say "different", I am not just
referring to a couple friends and family. Expose your dog to people
of different races, colors, heights, weights, and ages. Let them
meet people who are handicapped and people who wear different types
of clothing. Your dog should be exposed to hundreds of different
people within your first few months of owning it. It's important
for your pet to trust people.
Besides people, dogs need to be exposed
to as many different locations as possible. Some dogs are very comfortable
in their own homes, however, become nervous when placed in a new
location or environment. In addition, it is also important to expose
your dog to everything in your environment. You will sometimes see
young pups afraid of umbrellas, garbage cans, plastic bags, loud
buses, flags blowing in the wind, etc.. These are all things that
a dog needs to become accustomed to and learn are harmless.
Dogs naturally want to explore, and
this should be encouraged as long as the activity is supervised
and safe. Many times dogs will show apprehensiveness and fear with
new stimuli whether it be a person, place, or object. When the dog
is afraid, you may notice several things- the fur between its shoulder
blades and hips standing on end, a deep growl or bark, and/or avoidance
of the new stimuli. A common mistake made by dog owners is that
they will pet their dog say, "It's OK. Good boy. It's OK!"
when their dog is showing avoidance and barking. It is a mistake
because they unknowingly are praising their dog for being afraid
which only encourages that behavior! The owner should only praise
their dog if it is moves forward and approaches the new stimuli
to investigate even though it is afraid.
The easiest way to overcome a fear
is to associate the stimuli with something positive that the dog
is familiar with. For example, have strangers give your dog treats
if the dog is nervous of new people. If the dog is nervous of a
new location, but loves to play ball or tug-o-war, play with the
dog in that location. If your dog does not have a high interest
in food or play be sure to read our articles on feeding and playing
with your dog.
esides associating with the positive,
dogs usually can only concentrate on one thing at a time. If it
is concentrating on the toy or the food, it is difficult for the
dog to focus on the thing it is afraid of. Do not force your dog
into the "scary" situation through any type of compulsion,
like dragging them by their leash directly towards the thing is
it nervous about. That tactic is like teaching a child how to swim
by pushing him into the pool and often only increases their fear.