Is Socialization Always The Answer?
As an Oakland dog trainer I know for dogs, especially puppies, the idea of socialization is a big deal. Once a puppy is taken away from its mother and goes into their new home with their adoptive family, it’s important for that puppy to become socialized with their new environment and the people in it. After that once the puppy is comfortable in their home and family, it’s important to socialize them with outside distractions and stimuli, such as other dogs, neighbors, traffic, etc.
Socialization is something that the puppy learns with its mother and littermates.
The socialization period for a puppy begins at three weeks and goes till about nine weeks, which is usually shortly after people adopt them. Socialization technically can continue on forever, but as a Oakland/East Bay area dog trainer, I focus more on desensitization rather than socialization. The two concepts are similar, but desensitization is more about prepping them for further socialization, and eliminating risks of anxiety from unfamiliar stimuli.
When you bring a puppy or dog into your life, desensitization should be a regular activity for you and your dog.
It’s advisable to make this process gradual, rather than flooding them with the stimuli, as this could increase the chances of your dog becoming fearful of said stimuli. For example, I began working with a dog named Brody while training with a friend a dog trainer in Marion County. Brody’s mom thought it was a good idea to socialize him at the dog park once he was up-to-date on all his vaccination shots. Brody had a very friendly and submissive personality, so there were no worries about him becoming aggressive toward another dog. At the dog park, there were maybe twenty other dogs there, and Brody was clearly overwhelmed. He hid by his mom, refusing to play with the other dogs. Like the first day of school, Brody’s mom figured if he just continued going, he would adjust and begin interacting with the other dogs. The second day at the dog park, he still stayed close to his mom, and when another friendly dog approached to greet, Brody showed his first sign of aggression by growling and snapping at the dog.
The dog park was too much for Brody as an initial introduction to other dogs. He became so overwhelmed that he created a negative and fearful association with other dogs, and began lashing out due to this fear. What might have been a better alternative was finding a smaller play group for Brody and his mom to attend, where there weren’t as many dogs.
Once people adopt dogs, socialization can continue on, but desensitization should come first. This will set the dog up for more successful socialization. When a dog owner wants their dog to be comfortable and friendly around other dogs or people, the last thing they want is the dog to be frightened, anxious, and maybe even aggressive around these triggers. If your dog might need more desensitization, training can help! Call 800-649-7297 and we’ll find a way to help your dog become desensitized and socialized!