Why Socialize?

You often hear people use the relatively new training term, socialization, when they talk about training a dog.  Years ago, people were not thinking about socializing their dog, they were hiring baby sitters for the kids and socializing themselves!   Now, socializing has turned into a “must do thing” for the dog.

How did this start and why?  Trainers each day are faced with behavior issues at various levels with a range of dog breeds.  Research has proven that puppies learn very similar to infants.  They watch and mimic what they see.  They learn how to read facial expressions and body language.  If you notice an infant they will often stare and observe.  They don’t have a real concept of shear fear, they also are learning by association.  Back to the factor if a behavior is associated with something good the likelihood of that behavior continuing is very strong.    With this research has proven the more we expose our puppies to when they are young the less likely they are to be afraid of the item or person, as they get older.

For some dogs that are shy, fearful, and are even showing signs of slight aggression, socialization is crucial.  The dog must learn confidence, but you must always remember it must be at the dog’s threshold level not the owners.  Owners sometimes want to move much quicker than the dog can handle because they want quick results.  This will often come back to haunt you and the problem will take much longer to fix at that time.

Socialization must continue even as the dog ages.  Even though they may look all grown up at a year old, in some breeds up to 2 years to fully mature. Take your dog with you as you run errands.  Take the dog to the vet, even though they don’t have to go to the vet.  Ask the staff to weigh your dog, or just pay attention to the dog for a short time.  Make sure you are rewarding your dog when they act appropriately with either a great treat or even just praise.  Every good experience you can expose your dog to is like money in the bank.  It builds confidence in your dog so if something bad happens later on down the line, like your dog is scared by a person or another dog, they can bounce back quicker.  They will have had more positive experiences because of your socializing them then negative ones.

When people adopt older dogs they must also play close attention to the socialization factor.  If you do not know your dog’s history with people or other dogs, just take it slow.  Remember don’t move to fast.  Be your dog’s advocate and watch for signs of stress.  Food is a high reinforce for dogs.  A sure way to tell if your dog is stressed is if they won’t take a piece of food from you in an outside situation.  Just start small and gradually increase your dogs exposure.

If you need help socializing your dog call Kim Paciotti at 704-877-7821 or you can reach her by email at kim@trainingcanines.com Visit our website www.trainingcanines.com Carolina’s Premier Dog Training Club www.caninetrainingassociation.com

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