Dogs, like people, have varying degrees of coping skills for negative, anxious and frightening situations which could include reactions to people they don’t know, other animals, places and noises. It is our job as dog owners, to help them learn to cope with these stressors which, in turn, results in a pet that is much easier to manage.
It is best to start socializing your dog when it is a puppy – especially between the age of 3 and 12 weeks, but may be required when you adopt an older dog as well. With some dogs, it is an ongoing or lifelong process depending on their temperament.
Any situation or event can be an opportunity to socialize: obedience classes, trips to the park or beach, visits to the vet, walking around town, having guests over or taking the dog with you on visits to other people’s homes. Many of the retail businesses in Lunenburg County are dog-friendly – many restaurants welcome them on their patios and shoe stores, rug hooking studios and hardware stores love to have them visit. The more exposure dogs have to different kinds of people (including children), animals and environments, the more they develop confidence and learn to be more happy and trustworthy and they become much better behaved.
Some dogs seem well-socialized when young and then start to develop fearful or aggressive behavior between the ages of 8 to 24 months. There may have been no trauma to trigger this. Sometimes the lifestyle of a dog’s owner changes which results in them being less social so that the dog forgets his earlier coping skills. It could be due to the birth of children into the family which results in the parents being more engaged with the children than the dog. Animal behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell calls this “juvenile-onset shyness.” The dog may start barking at people and other animals or lunging at them.
Continuing to pay attention to your dog’s social life can prevent or correct this. Making play dates or taking them to an off-leash park to play with other dogs is a fun way to provide social activity. Having visitors greet your dog and give it treats when they arrive at your home can also help a lot.. .
Be aware of any changes in your dog’s behaviour and address it as quickly as possible. SHAID provides many opportunities for adoptable dogs to be socialized. The dogs spend time in the runs with each other and interact with many staff and volunteers as well as the vet and trainer. If you are looking for a dog to join your family, the shelter is a great place to find a well-socialized pet. Read success stories on our website www.shaid.ca
, under the Happy Tales link.