Does My Dog Need A Social Life?
The question sounds rather absurd. After all, we are discussing an animal, not a person. Yet, the truth is that dogs do require a certain amount of socialisation in order to be well-adjusted, well-behaved pets.
The first thought is that now that I own a dog, I’ll have to take him along when I go to a pub or to a show. That would truly be absurd. The rules of socialisation for dogs differ from those of humans, though the goals are similar. If a dog exists in a limited and restricted environment, its behaviour and demeanour will be affected.
Assume, for a moment, that you were confined to a solitary, confined area for days on end – no companionship, no mental stimulation, no entertainment, and no variety of scenery. How would you react when you finally went outside into a crowd of people or a busy environment? You wouldn’t know where to turn first. You would try to see everything at once, run around, laugh, and perhaps even emit a scream, just for good measure.
Now, imagine how your dog will react if it never has any stimulation, and remains alone in your apartment each day, waiting only for your return. Being a well-socialised dog does not imply attending social events. Rather, it means that your dog should be comfortable in a variety of everyday situations. In order to avoid excessive behavioural problems such as aggression, excessive barking, and fear, you should expose your dog to as many social situations as possible. Allow your dog to see other people, bicycles and cars, joggers, and other dogs. Accustom your dog to everyday outdoor noises. Walk your dog in areas where everyday items like trash cans are seen.
But, how does all this exposure cure the behavioural problems? When dogs become accustomed to people, dogs, bicycles, cars, etc., they are far less prone to excessive barking. When they realize that your neighbourhood comprises more than just your home, they will grow to recognize it and react to the visual stimuli in a relaxed manner.
Of course, effective socialisation requires the proper reactions from you. When you take your dog for a walk, make it a positive experience and do not forget to apply the same commands, motions and obedience techniques that you use at home.
For example, you and your dog are out for a walk and your dog becomes fearful of something he is encountering for the first time. Do not pet him in order to reassure him! Petting your dog is a way to express praise. Although you wish to sooth the dog, the petting will be misinterpreted as approval to be afraid. This will reinforce the fear, rather than sooth the dog. The proper technique is to ignore the fear and then redirect the dog’s behaviour to a relaxed activity that is worthy of his receiving praise. You may want to practice an obedience command like heel, keep walking until your dog no longer is looking worried. When he is relaxed and obedient, give him the praise he deserves and wants.
Keep in mind that dogs are creatures of habit. The unexpected disturbs them. More experiences and exposure to everyday life that a dog has, better the chances that he will be well adjusted and will respond to your obedience and behavioural requests.
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