Dog socialization begins almost from birth, when the mother dog starts teaching her pups what they can and cannot do. If they break the rules, she corrects them immediately and if they wander too far off she brings them back.
If all goes well, by the time those puppies are a bit older, they know their place in that pack, respecting other dogs with a higher position and guiding dogs with a lower position.
That’s if all goes well. However, quite often when humans adopt a puppy very young — twelve weeks is not uncommon — they fail to continue the lessons of the mother dog by not creating the rules, boundaries, and limitations that all dogs need to be socialized.
Even if a dog is adopted much later in puppyhood or as an adult, if the humans don’t establish the rules of their new pack, then that dog is not going to know how to behave.
A dog that respects its fellow pack members, knows their place in the pack, and follows the rules is a socialized dog. When a dog is anti-social, it can lead to various problems. So, how can you tell whether your dog is socialized or not? Here are some things to watch out for.
- Not respecting space
A socialized dog knows its place in the pack, while an anti-social dog does not. One of the ways that this can manifest itself is a dog that does not respect the space of other humans or animals, especially those in its own pack.These are the dogs that nudge humans to beg for food during meal time, or try to “herd” people or other animals in the house by circling behind them or pushing them. They can also cause embarrassment for their humans by trying to mount guests’ legs or jumping on any people who come into the house.Solution: the humans in the pack must claim their space and consistently correct the dog to set the boundaries. This means physically blocking the dog or pushing it away when it tries to invade.
- Showing over-excitement
To humans, it’s easy to see a dog that goes crazy with spinning and barking and jumping as just being happy to see us return home, but that’s not what’s happening from a dog’s point of view.The over-excited dog is acting like that because she doesn’t have any rules on where to go or what to do in certain situations, so all of that energy gets expressed physically and at random. And when a dog’s body is that physically excited, it’s impossible to reach the dog’s mind to calm her down.Solution: over-excited dogs need a lot of exercise to drain that excess energy, but the humans in the pack need to also stop rewarding that excited behavior. If you don’t want your dog to keep jumping and spinning every time you come home, then you need to ignore the dog when it’s in that state. The dog won’t take it personally; she’ll just learn that over-excitement does not earn a reward.
- Pulling or lunging on the walk
As the Pack Leader, we should always be the one in front on the walk, but that isn’t always the case, and one of the most common issues that Cesar deals with is people whose dogs pull them, or otherwise well-behaved dogs that will suddenly lunge when they see another dog or person on the walk.In these cases, the dog is not getting the leadership it needs from the human on the other end of the leash, so he naturally moves to the front because every pack has to have a leader.Solution: The human on the end of the leash needs to learn to be calm and assertive and to not let the dog get out in front, as well as how to not react to things in the environment that might get the dog excited. (You can find more information in the Dog Walk section at CesarsWay.com.)
- Avoiding other dogs or people
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the dog that tries to avoid everyone, or at least unfamiliar people or animals. These are dogs that would naturally be happy at the back of the pack, where they are protected by the rest of the pack members but, for whatever reason, they feel as if they have been pushed forward in the pack and their reaction is to avoid or flee.Not every dog that runs away from something is anti-social — a normally calm, happy-go-lucky dog may suddenly hide under the bed if there’s a loud, unfamiliar noise like fireworks or thunder, for example. But the dog that does it every time there is something new is showing anti-social behavior.Solution: Timid dogs can be harder to rehabilitate than aggressive ones, but it all begins with the dog learning to trust you as their Pack Leader. And, although difficult, if you’re a Pack Leader with a timid dog, you may have to force yourself to ignore the dog for a while, practicing “no touch, no talk, no eye contact” until the dog feels comfortable approaching your space.
Is your dog anti-social or perfectly behaved? Tell us about them in the comments.