Posts Tagged ‘socialization’

Why not start the New Year off with just a few of the common myths surrounding dog behavior and training? Here is a hodge-podge of topics ranging from puppy socialization to dogs sleeping on your bed to wagging tails. How many of them did you already know are only myths?   

1.  “A dog wagging his tail is safe to pet.”

Not necessarily… a dog’s tail wagging indicates arousal. For example, a dog barking to keep you away may often also be wagging his tail! See if you can spot all the different circumstances that your dog wags his tail in! 

The best way to be sure a dog is inviting you to pet him? Always make sure you look at what the entire body is telling you:  are the muscles relaxed or is the dog stiff, etc.

Consider ordering Patricia McConnell’s “Reading Between the Lines” DVD for some excellent visuals of dog communication signals.

 2. “A puppy shouldn’t be trained until he’s at least 16 weeks old or he shouldn’t be trained until he’s had all of his shots because the risk for disease is too great.”

This is a myth that could actually cause a great deal of harm to your pup. Keep in mind that by 8 weeks of age (the age at which most new doggie parents often acquire their new addition), the sensitive period for socialization is about 2/3 OVER! This critical socialization period occurs between the ages of 3 to 12 weeks. This is your best change to have your puppy engage in as many positive encounters as possible (not just to dogs but to all types of people, locations and situations) to ensure that your pup becomes a confident, socially polite adult. Once this period is gone, it’s gone.  If your puppy is not well-socialized, there is a great chance that he you will have behavioral concerns arise in the future: anything from fear issues to barking at a trash can in your neighbor’s  yard, etc , etc. This list is too great to mention.

The benefits far outweigh the risks. When I taught group puppy classes I required the first DHPP vaccine, which was to have taken place at least a week before classes started. The risk of a puppy getting sick in a clean puppy class with this first shot in place is very small. The key is it to make sure that wherever you take your puppy, accidents must be cleaned up and disinfected immediately. Also, avoid placing your puppy on the ground in common areas that harbor germs (the grass in front of your local pet food store, for instance).   

For more on this, see: http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/images/stories/Media/veterinary%20medicine%20roundtable%20ps.pdf, http://www.apdt.com/petowners/articles/docs/RKAndersonLetter.pdf, the works of Dr. Ian Dunbar or visit Dog Star Daily at www. Dogstardaily.com

 3. “Dogs that live with other dogs don’t need to interact with dogs outside of the home during the socialization period of their development.”

 This is another big one. It’s important that your dog meets and interacts with many dogs, not just the ones he sees every day. Imagine if you only ever interacted with one or two people, when you met person #3, how would you interact with them if their personalities were different? Would you know how? (See the info on socialization in Myth #2).

 4. “If a dog cowers when he meets new people, dogs or goes to new places, he must’ve been abused.”

He may have. Many people take these signs of fear to mean that a dog was abused, but in a great many cases the truth is the dog was not properly socialized.

Yes, numbers 2,3 and 4 all have to do with socialization. It’s such an important topic and so easy to go wrong with. It is quite common for dogs not exposed positively to people, other animals (including, but certainly not limited to other dogs), places and situations to show varying levels of fear.

Dogs can be afraid of anything from other dogs, to people, to tricycles, to dishwashers, to microwaves to giant stuffed animals to strollers- all things that you or I would think are strange to be afraid of. Why would we think it odd to be afraid of these things? Because we’ve been introduced to them, we’re familiar with them, to a dog who has never seen a tricycle, there’s no telling what type of torture device it might be!

If you think that in 7 years you might maybe perhaps (even if there’s only a 1% chance) get a yacht and go sailing, you need to expose your pup to the dock and expose him to sights, sounds and smells of the dock before he is 12 weeks old.  No one expects you to think of everything. We’ll always miss something no matter how hard we try, but why not try to cover as many bases as possible? Sit down and create a list. It’s much easier to get a pup to form an opinion of something as “safe” or even “wonderful” during this critical period in their development, than to go back later and show them tricycles, dishwashers, microwaves, giant stuffed animals and strollers are “safe” later on.  And I can tell you that fear of these types of things do happen, because when we adopted Special Dark we discovered this collection of items was on his list of unfamiliar and unsafe items!

 5. “Dogs that have a huge backyard to play in don’t need walks.”

It is essential for dogs to get out on a walk, even if they have a big backyard to play in. Walks not only give our dogs the physical exercise they need, but they give our dogs lots of mental stimulation. Their noses are so much more powerful than ours that it is often said that if a human were able to posses the powerful sense of smell that dogs for have for just one day, we’d be so exhausted we’d be asleep for a week!

Some people argue that their dogs get enough exercise in the backyard, but if you spend time watching them, take a look to see just how much time they actually spend running around, or for that matter, even walking around the backyard. It’s not very much, most likely the majority of the time they lie about!

Keeping your dog in the backyard and not taking him for varied walks is also a great way to start a fence barking problem!

Stay tuned for part II!


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