What has happened to “man’s best friend”?
Why are there so many dog bites and family pets surrendered to shelters? It all comes down to socialization. Dogs are pack animals and need to live in a group. Our lives are becoming more isolated and many of our dogs spend their days home alone. So how do we mold a new puppy into an outgoing, confident dog?
The breed of dog you choose plays a large role in the dog’s natural personality. Some breeds are more inclined to physically protect their property. These breeds require much work on people socialization. Breeds that are prone to aggression towards other dogs and animals also have more problems around children. Be sure that they get a lot of exposure to pets and children. There is a natural dominant streak in some breeds. This causes the dog to take action for itself.
With firm training, you can turn a dominant breed into a reliable pet. Of course, there are variations in personality in every breed, but you should plan ahead when purchasing dogs with strong inherited traits. Look for a pup that is neither overly confident nor shy. Shy pups are more likely to become fear biters and require more work at socialization. Pups that show signs of assertiveness at an early age, can become aggressive as they mature. They will need the most expert care and training.
Socialization begins the day the pup comes home. Pups bond to people between 4 and 12 weeks. If not given the opportunity to play with people and other dogs until after 12 weeks, many develop into poor learners, have a greater fear of people, animals, and noises, and are usually shyer and more anti-social.
Get them used to a collar and leash and get them out of the house. Until your pup’s shots are complete, be cautious around local parks and strange dogs. Try to enlist friends with well-behaved children and dogs to help. Find pet stores and other public places to take your pup. Schoolyards, ballparks, and local playgrounds are great places to expose your pup to children. Encourage everyone you meet to pet your pup.
Enroll in Puppy Obedience classes. Never stroke or soothe a pup that is frightened. This encourages that reaction. Your pet follows your lead. Always be happy and act excited at something new. Encourage them to follow you to investigate something they are unsure of. Try to make all new experiences positive.
Teaching your pup the basic commands does more than make a well-behaved pet. It teaches the pup to look to you for guidance and to trust your instincts. A well-socialized dog does not diminish its protection skills. On the contrary, it produces a more confident dog.
It also helps to greatly reduce the incidents of bites to family, children, and guests. Socialization should be a top priority for the first six months but needs to continue for the life of your dog. With careful planning and a little work, you can have a friendly dog you can trust in any situation.