Enough is Enough
Socialization, the process whereby an individual learns to adjust to a group (or society) and behave in a manner approved by the group (or society). According to most social scientists, socialization essentially represents the whole process of learning throughout the life course and is a central influence on the behaviour, beliefs, and actions.
It is true it is important your dog learns to be around other dogs of all ages. But this does not mean they have to meet every single dog they come across in the park or even play with a group of dogs in a class environment.
Thinking like that can sometimes put your dog into very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations. It is like thinking we need to hug and talk to everyone we see as we walk to work. This is simply not how it works in our society and it is certainly not how the Canine society works.
We need to socialise, but this needs to be a fun and comfortable activity for your dog or you are simply going to end up with your dog not trusting you or other dogs.
So, how do we achieve this?
First, we must recognise that most environments we put our dogs into unfortunately do not always constitute good-socialisation. A few of the places you are told are good places to socialise are Country parks, Town parks, Dog shows, Community events and group training classes.
However, when you look at it these type places they can be so busy they simply excite and overwhelm your dog. If you do not recognise this and continue the exposure you are in danger of losing control and effective socialisation has not been achieved. There is a better way to socialise your dog, successful socialisation prevents problems instead of creating them. Socialisation is about taking it step by step ensuring your dog is ready to progress to each new step.
I not by any means saying you should not take your dog to these places, I would never want anyone to think I do not advocate socialisation. What I am saying though is to make sure the activity matches your dog’s current skill set.
Ask yourself “Is my dog ready for this activity? If the true answer is no, then start smaller. Say it’s an event you wanted to go to with lots of people and dogs, they still look to go but how about starting at a quieter area of the event with fewer people. You can then introduce your dog to the noises and smells and keep your dog steady and relaxed. If your dog responds well, you can either decide to increase the exposure or if not simply take them back home at which point they have still had a positive experience.
The same applies to other activities like group classes. I run group classes and understand that sometimes these type classes can seriously overwhelm some dogs. So, if that happens we quieten them down first, if the exposure is detrimental to their learning process then for that individual dog enough is enough. As a trainer, I will suggest then to the owners that we evaluate each session the dog attends. If we keep the sessions short the dog starts learning new ways to interact with his environment and eventually can regulate and control its own excitement.
In essence, your dog needs socialisation, and like I said I advocate it 100% but please know what your dog can cope with and know their skill sets. Your dog’s sociability will progress faster if you offer it up in a series of baby steps, rather than with overwhelming and exciting activities.
Remember “Successful socialisation prevents problems it should not create them”.
Photo by Anoir Chafik