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The social animal - Educating your dog

The term ‘Socialisation’ (much like the term ‘Aggression’) is one of the more misunderstood terms people often use. Most people think having a socialised dog means they will play and engage with everyone and everything. But in essence, what you’re saying is you want a ‘friendly’ dog – and that really depends on your dog’s base character. Some dogs like being part of a pack, others prefer to be more aloof – a bit like people.

PetsCommunity
By Russell D Russell

Sunday 4 November 2018, 04:00PM


Socialising your dog is not humanising your dog. Photo: Charles Deluvio

Socialising your dog is not humanising your dog. Photo: Charles Deluvio

So, how do we get our puppies to be ‘truly’ social animals that are a pleasure to have around?

People
It’s important for our pups to meet and engage with as many different people as possible. Different heights, ages, voices, sizes, long hair, beards, walking sticks and so on – these all create different pictures for our dog. But it’s not about getting these people to run up and play with our pup, it’s about getting them to be calm and ignore them – allowing our pup to interact, engage and approach people at their own pace, whilst being rewarded by YOU, not them. And never force your dog to meet or engage with someone that they very clearly don’t want to.

Dogs and other animals
In the same way, it’s just expected that everyone should be able to pet every puppy they come across, it also seems expected that all dogs should just get on and play together. This is not the case. We need to show our dogs to be calm in the presence of other dogs and animals, rewarding them or redirecting them as required. I don’t advocate puppy play-dates with the ‘friendly’ dog next door as our pup could just end up learning all the fun, friendly, yet hugely anti-social engagement behaviours of the other dog, which doesn’t set them up well for future encounters with other more social dogs.

Environments and Texture
Dogs learn with pictures. So every time the picture changes, we have to show them it’s okay. They may be calm and fine with you at home, but when you go to the beach, they freak out. It takes time for our dogs to work out that all these different environments don’t matter. Also, getting our dog used to different surfaces that they may encounter – such as tiled floors, wooden floors, uneven floors, steps, gravel, grass, wobbly floors – all of these things create pictures for our dogs. Bring up a dog on nothing but tiled floors, and then one day try getting him to walk on grass. You’d be amazed at how troublesome that can be.

Sounds
Many dogs are diagnosed with a fear of thunder, or fireworks and most of this is due to a combination of poor socialising to the sounds, and reinforcement of their behaviour in response to it. Playing these sounds at a low level on your phone, whilst rewarding your dog for calm behaviour is a simple way to create an alternative behaviour, such as laying down and being calm, for your dog in the face of such stimuli.

Machinery
Motorbikes, bicycles, skateboards, mini buses, hoovers, washing machines… there’s a plethora of noisy stuff out there and our dogs need to hear them all and realise there’s nothing to worry about. Stick with me, and you’ll be okay.
Remember, socialisation doesn’t just happen on its own, and it takes more than just simple exposure and expecting our dog to ‘get over it’. The key is create meaningful and positive experiences for our dogs. Allowing them to approach stimuli in their own time, with no pressure, and being rewarded at the right time.

A quick note on vaccinations: Most vets will tell you to give your dog zero exposure to anything until around four to six months of age, when they are fully vaccinated. For me, the benefits of having a fully socialised and confident dog far outweighs the tiny risk of our dogs getting infected by being outside at such a young age. Obviously, any outside exposure to new environments, animals and so on needs to be carefully managed to minimise any risks – but short simple exposure in the right environments should be fine.

If you would like some more information on canine training, or behavioural issues, then please contact us on 091 654 1960, email info@k9pointacademy.com, or check our website at - www.k9pointacademy.com.

CPA is the only K9 organisation in Thailand accredited with the
Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), and as an American Kennel Club (AKC) Evaluator.

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