Vespa is almost four years old and has been in the care of Funds for Furry Friends. Vespa loves people, but is looking for a home without other animals. She does take time and patience to settle into new situations, but is very well trained, obedient and smart, too! www.fundsfurfriends.com
One of the easiest ways to have a very well behaved dog is through proper socialization. Good social skills can mean all the difference for your dog and his self esteem.
Socialization means more than interaction with people and other dogs. Part of socializing your pet is also exposure to new experiences, places and things. The more opportunities your dog has throughout his lifetime to familiar with new things, the better his reaction to new things will be.
Without proper socialization, dogs lack confidence and have trouble coping with new experiences. When these dogs reach adulthood, they can experience extreme stress and have a very fearful reaction to these new and strange situations.
One situation that stands out for me involved a little mixed-breed dog that spent his whole life in a house and yard, but was never taken off the property he lived on.
At the age of one year old, he was finally taken to a new home, and he had quite a hard time adjusting. He was stiff as a board riding in a car, would panic when a leash was clipped on, would crawl on his belly when he met new people and he cowered going through doorways and entrances to new places.
This dog was never mistreated or abused — but many who saw his reaction to things would question it. He simply lacked exposure to these new situations and experiences, and didn’t know how to cope with them.
You’ve probably heard comments about how a dog raised with something can be trusted with it. For example, a dog raised with cats will be great with cats or a dog raised with livestock will be great with livestock.
In most cases, this is true. When a puppy is raised around something, he tends to accept it.
Most people understand the importance of socializing a puppy, but many people do not understand that socialization isn’t something that sticks for life. Without continued experiences and exposure to things, a dog with great social skills can lose them.
One of Funds for Furry Friends longest term rescue dogs is an example of this very thing. Vespa, a boxer mix, was adopted from the rescue as a young puppy that was well socialized with other animals and people. She was returned to the rescue as an adult dog that had no exposure to other animals since she left rescue.
She is now seeking an only dog home and it’s been a very long wait for her. Adopting out a dog that needs an only pet home can be very, very difficult.
Socialization does not stop at puppyhood, and exposing your dog to new people, animals, places and things is a life-long necessity.
The best way to keep your dog socialized is to expose him to everything you possibly can. This doesn’t need to happen in a day — but you should always make an effort to expose your dog to new things.
Try new smells, sights and experiences every chance you get. Be sure to have a leash on when you are in new places and always have a positive attitude in the face of new situations.
Remember that your attitude and reaction to new things can play a big role in the way your dog reacts. Don’t reward a nervous or fearful reaction with reassuring pats and attention.
Instead, use encouragement and a positive attitude to help a nervous dog move forward — and be sure to give pats and attention with each paw forward.
If you are working with a dog that does lack social skills, take it slow — but make sure you put aside a little time each day for socialization. The secret to a well socialized dog is exposure, exposure and more exposure!
It is also very important to end on a happy note — even if that means tossing him a cookie or giving him a good belly rub at the end.
With each new introduction and positive experience, you will show your dog that he can trust you and you will be on your way to a very well behaved, well socialized dog.
Dana Grove is an animal lover who works with several pet organizations in Brandon.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 12, 2012