If you’ve ever seen a dog who is quick to bark, lunge, or cower from another dog that is coming his way, chances are, you are seeing a dog that was never properly socialized. During puppyhood, dogs must undergo a socialization period where experiences determine whether or not a puppy can react appropriately to the presence of strangers or other dogs. This part of a puppy’s life is incredibly important in order to prevent issues like aggression or fear reactivity around other dogs especially.
Proper socialization can mean the difference between being able to go out on walks or to the dog park without incident and having your dog be a nuisance, or worse, an aggressor in public. Socialization at an early age can prevent this from happening and keep your puppy from unnecessary stress around others of the same species, making it altogether easier to train, exercise, and raise him properly.
The socialization period for a puppy begins at around seven to eight weeks of age and continues up until fifteen weeks or about four months. This period of time is what you, as an owner, must take advantage of if you wish for your puppy to form good habits and associations with other dogs. This period of time should also be used to teach etiquette and manners, like preventing jumping up on other dogs or playing too roughly. Some of these manners are typically learned from a puppy’s littermates and mother, but reinforcing it is always beneficial.
As an owner, you will need to allow for good experiences and control stressful ones while using good judgment. Not all dogs will be good role models for your puppy, so it’s important to have a discerning eye when it comes to certain situations. Be prepared to remove your puppy from unsafe or hazardous places. He trusts you, so it’s up to you to provide a great learning environment!
First, be sure that your puppy has begun the process of vaccinations. While most puppies shouldn’t be around strange dogs until they are protected in full, you may still choose to have your puppy be present around dogs that you know for sure are healthy and vaccinated. Your puppy’s health is important.
Second, find a few dogs locally that can help with the socialization process. Family pets or dogs that belong to friends both make for great first meetings. Be sure that these dogs are well socialized, friendly, and healthy, to provide great experiences for your puppy.
Brunson has always been a little timid of other dogs and other people besides us. He would always Bark and cry when seeing anyone else. He gets comfortable with people and other animals quickly, but getting there is the hard part. We socialized him with dogs we knew that were healthy and vaccinated before he received all of his vaccinations but it wasn’t enough (Obviously). He is still scared of anything new.
Hello! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell his fear. First we reduce his fear around new dogs, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs because of genetic reasons, lack of socialization, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes having low thyroid levels contributes to unwanted canine behavior. During this time, avoid any punishment for reactivity. Doing so will make his concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate other dogs with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what an oncoming dog means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As the new dog comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the new dog causes meat to fall from the sky. When the other dog is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! As you are reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other leashed dogs, be careful where you take your dog, and be protective of what she is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram her opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage (or somewhere out of the way if those two options aren't possible) with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees another dog, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening dog and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at her (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell your dog "watch me" every time you see another dog approaching. Your end goal is for your dog to see another dog, and remain calm, looking at you for guidance. And this will be either continuing your walk, or being allowed to interact with the other dog. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!
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