Virtually all breeders, trainers and dog lovers agree the single most important factor in having a well-adjusted and calm dog or puppy is to provide appropriate socialization experiences starting at the youngest possible age. These puppy socialization experiences need to be done on a daily basis, especially with the more aggressive or timid breeds to prevent the natural tendencies towards these behaviors to become established.
In nature the adult dogs and his or her brothers and sisters socialize a puppy. Puppies learn that when they bite too hard they get bitten back, or they are growled at by the adult dogs. When the puppy is removed from the mother and brothers and sisters prior to this socialization it is up to the humans to complete this training. When the puppy bites or chews and is hurtful the adult must respond in a way that shows displeasure with the actions of the puppy. This usually involves a louder and rapid “Ouch” or “Don’t bite” followed by ignoring the puppy for a few minutes. Usually this is all that is required. If the dog is slapped or spanked when they bite they may, in fact, become more aggressive as they are trying to tell you that they are being hurt. If your puppy does not respond to the “Ouch” or “Stop” command try substituting a chew toy to teach them the appropriate thing to bite on. They should be praised for chewing on the toy and not biting a person.
Some breeds will naturally nip or heel. This is particularly true for herding dogs such as Border Collies, Australian Cattle Dogs, Corgi breeds and Sheepdogs of all varieties. A squirt bottle full of water is often all that is needed to teach these highly intelligent breeds to herd animals, not humans. Puppies and dogs that are working breeds need to challenged mentally and need to be given commands and work to do to keep occupied.
A puppy should be introduced to as many new types of animals, situations and environments as possible. This means that puppies should get the opportunity to ride in the car, walk through the park, and be around lots of other people, dogs and other animals. The more that puppies experience the world in a positive way the less likely they are to become aggressive or shy or fearful as adult dogs.
Some breeds are more prone to overly aggressive or timid behavior. These breeds should have particular emphasis placed on socialization to prevent issues arising as the dog’s age and become more aggressive or afraid. Dogs that are not properly socialized respond to new situations by either trying to flee or trying to fight, both that are usually very undesirable responses.
Socialization can occur naturally if you take your puppy to the park or to a puppy obedience class. It is very important that you monitor the puppy’s response and offer support and encouragement or praise when the puppy interacts with other dogs in a desirable manner. Avoid situations where the puppy becomes frightened or fearful of other animals as this can prompt an aggressive response.
By keeping the socialization positive and ongoing it is relatively simple to keep your dog well behaved around other animals and people. If you have having challenges with socializing your dog consider taking an obedience class and getting the assistance of a professional trainer.
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