Print this page

The Importance of Socializating your Dog

By Susie Aga

I would like to share my professional opinion on the benefits of training. Through training you will build a strong lifelong bond between you and your dog. A well-behaved dog is more likely to become an active member of your family. Well-socialized, trained dogs make it easy for you to take them on vacations, to parks, and on visits to family members' homes without it being stressful for either of you. Training requires consistency, motivation and timing. The main thing most people do not realize is that the training is for the owner as well as the dog. Dogs cannot think like we do, but we can surely think like them; we just need to learn how.

Dogs are pack animals, and in their pack there is always a leader, the Alpha. We just need to understand how to become an alpha. Communication is the key. The alpha dictates everything to the pack; she/ he will teach boundaries as well as what is acceptable and what is not. If we train like we are the alpha then it is instinctual for the dog to understand that we are in charge.

Socialization

Builds your dog's temperament, and an even-tempered dog is less likely to be aggressive or fearful and will have fewer behavioral problems. Dogs that have been exposed to many different people, places and objects are much easier to train as well. If dogs are not exposed to different places, people, terrains and objects they can build up a fear of anything new or of any change in their routine. Always make sure your dog is fully immunized before you start any socialization. Check with your veterinarian first before any socialization occurs. People do not realize that dogs must be exposed to as simple a thing as sand, for example. I had a client call me while on her vacation; she was stunned that the dog she thought was well-socialized would not get on the beach. Her dog was scared of the sensation of her feet sinking into the sand. Now she remembered I had told her to take her puppy to sand early on, so there would not be an avoidance of it later in the dog's life. She found out the hard way that socialization has many forms, shapes and textures. Another example involved a lady that moved into a new home where there were 4 stair wells. One was outside off a deck and you could see through to the other side, a very scary situation for some dogs. Now the dog is 2 ½ years old and does not know how to go up or down stairs. The importance of socialization is tremendous. The main thing we all want is a well- mannered, well-behaved dog, and this can be accomplished through Socialization and Training.

Exercise

Dogs build up a level of stress and energy everyday which can determine how they interact with you, your kids and other dogs. Exercise releases stress and energy. Your dog needs exercise every day for this release. A bored dog can become a "bad dog", whereas an exercised dog leads to a calm, well- behaved dog. Remember, an exhausted dog does nothing wrong! One form of exercise is getting your dog interested in a ball or Frisbee. Find places (if you do not have a fenced back yard) to allow your dog to run. Long walks are helpful, but running releases the most amount of energy and stress. Allow your dog to have "dog time" where he/she can just be a dog, and run, jump, play, chew and dig. Most of a dog's natural behaviors are what we want a dog not to do; seems a little unfair, don't you think? Dogs naturally greet one another by jumping, mouthing, and smelling. Within their pack the greeting is a big deal. There is competition for attention, and that naturally raises the dog's energy level. You can teach a dog another way to greet you besides jumping, through training and consistency. Dogs are social animals and want to be with their "pack"- you are their pack. Have fun! Exercise, Socialize and Train your dog and the rest is simple!

Training

The concept of training your puppy is often overlooked as part of the socialization process, when in fact - dog training is one of the most important and influential ways of properly socializing your dog. I have found that Ridgebacks are particularly responsive to training as a way to become better socialized. Bonding is a key component of the process and fun, positive training reinforces the socialization process.

You should do a beginning training program outside of the house. THis introduces your puppy to outside influences which aid in socialization. However, such training only goes so far. There are a lot of different training techniques and interactive training at home is really productive. One such method which is very productive, and fun for you and your dog is training by Dove Cresswell. She is known mostly by her role in training dogs for television and movies. She is worth a look, and provides a great value of reference videos that you can refer to all through your puppies life. Click here to have a look.

Susie Aga
Atlanta Dog Trainer

Edited by Mark Shirley