by Bark Busters
Socialization is a topic that can be misunderstood. It’s important that our dogs are properly socialized, but what is socialization?
Let’s look at the dictionary definition.
Socialize: To fit or train for a social environment.
How does that relate to our dogs? Simply put, our dogs should fit into our society. They should remain calm and attentive to us in social situations. They need to take their cues from us. We need to teach them how to react properly to situations. Rover will not automatically make the right decisions. He makes decisions based on a canine perspective not a human one.
Do you stop everyone you see and try to shake their hand or talk to them? Of course you don’t. Is it important that your dog greets everyone? Do you try and interact with everyone you see? Why would you want your dog to? You talk to some people and you play with some people, but not with everyone. The same goes for Rover. There are times to play, but not every dog will be a playmate and, it won’t necessarily be playtime every time Rover sees his friend Max. There are also acceptable ways to play.
Socialization is the process of exposing our dogs to a wide variety of situations, correcting their mistakes and showing and guiding them to the correct behavior
Where should we start the socialization process? We should start in the home. That’s usually where Rover spends most of his time. He needs to be able to spend time alone without getting upset. He should remain calm when someone comes to the door. He needs to understand the rules. If Rover is not following the rules in the house there’s a very good chance he won’t follow the rules outside the house. There are many more distractions outside.
Spend some time teaching him to walk on lead inside, then in your backyard, then down a quiet street. How did you learn to drive? Did you just get in the car and take off down a highway at rush hour? I hope not. First you had to learn what the controls were and how they worked. Then you might have practiced in an empty parking lot, with someone showing and guiding you, correcting you when you made a mistake. You practiced in areas where there were minimal distractions. You had to work up to the highway at rush hour. Rover needs to work up to the crowded street with people and dogs and cats.
You need to be Rover’s teacher. He doesn’t have the ability to correctly interpret our society so it’s up to us to show him how to behave properly.
Socialization is an on going process. Life is not static, it’s constantly changing. The more situations we guide Rover through, correcting his mistakes and guiding him to the correct behavior, the more he will understand the rules and fit into our lives and our society.
It’s not hard to socialize Rover and it should be fun, but socialization is not Rover “playing” with every dog at the park. It’s not having the expectation that everyone will pet him. It’s playing when it’s time to play, without trying to dominate. It’s waiting calmly while you talk to your neighbor while on a walk. It’s learning how to behave properly in “social” situations.
When we take the time to properly socialize Rover we take another important step on the road to Happy Dogs and Happy Families.