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What is Proper Socialization?

Socializing your furry friend is a must if your lifestyle includes seeing new people, having people come over, or bringing your dog with you when you go out. A common misconception about socializing a dog is believing that your dog is socialized because they have been around the people that live in your home or because you brought them with you on a road trip and they saw some people. The reason being that those ways are not considered proper socialization is because of what actually goes into proper socialization.

How to know if your dog isn't properly socialized? Please consider the following:

  1. Does your dog get reactive when seeing new people in the house or when out and about?

  2. Does your dog get overly excited when seeing new people to the point where they are leash pulling or jumping on the new person(s) for attention?

  3. When you walk your dog, do they get reactive when a person walks by, across the street or when a car drives by?

Whether it be either reaction, those are all considered improper socialization because a clear indication of proper socialization is a neutral response to either other dogs or any person(s). The key to proper socializing is a neutral, desensitized behavior to seeing new and other dogs or people. We don't want our furry friend reacting negatively nor becoming overly excited as where they are actually begging for attention. This isn't a good behavior because the underlying thought process behind your dog behaving like #2, is that they look at every person as a need to fulfill their demand for attention. They are demanding their need be met and when you pet/praise them, that is considered a reward to them for that anxious act.

Think about this way, back in the day with tribalism, we understand that we feel comfortable and confident around the tribe we know and have always known. But when a tribe would meet a new tribe the first instinct is fear, because you have never met that person before and you don't know what they will do. Another example would be that of a bubble boy. If you lived in a bubble your entire life when you finally went out to meet new people you feel terrified because everything is all the unknown.

The big question then is, how do you properly socialize your dog? There are many great ways to get your dog to a neutral, confident state of mind where essentially seeing other dogs/people don't matter to them. Some of the methods include:

  • Bringing your dog with you to a dog park, but staying outside of the park on the perimeter of the fence. While walking outside of the perimeter, working on some training where your dog can see the other dogs; but is building on focusing on you and developing the confidence to not care about what's going on around them.

  • Taking your dog with you to dog friendly stores and working on training where people are in semi close proximity, such as walking by on the aisle. This will again work on their focus on you, diminish the anxiety of seeing new people and develop that calm, neutral behavior in new settings. Bonus* If people ask to pet your dog, it is completely okay to decline and respond that they are currently in training. This will reduce that anxious behavior to look at every person that walks by is a source of attention.

The goal of socializing is to feel confident in themselves that they don't need to fear new people or dogs, or feel so anxious to the point that they demand attention. A neutral state of being is the best indicator of a properly socialized dog.

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