Puppy Socialization

One of the biggest training opportunities that most people don’t even realize can be training is socializing your puppy. Now, I don’t mean you take your furry friend as your +1 to your cousin’s wedding…

social puppy

What I mean is every chance you have to get your puppy out and around new and different things is a chance to let them know that the world is a big place, but it doesn’t have to be a scary one. I don’t know about you, but anytime I go somewhere new, I always feel a sense of relief if I am being accompanied by someone who knows the area, the people, and even what to expect out of the new experience. My confidence is boosted and I feel a lot more prepared to handle what might come our way. Not only that, but I build a connection with whomever was kind enough to come with and help me to make my first visit or introduction a success. The same concepts apply to our dogs. When we take them with and allow them to see something besides the inside of the house and the backyard we broaden their ability to take in their surroundings and to not become overwhelmed.

Warren

The best way to do this? Start slow… I always tell my clients you can’t set a goal small enough. If you set it even lower than what you and your dog can handle, it ends up just being another success to add to the books. Getting in over your head and creating a failure turns into something that must be fixed. If you jump right into the deep end, assuming that one or both of you can handle it, bad things happen. Your dogs loses faith in you and develops a bad taste for anything and possibly everything related to the new area, person, or experience.

Just remember, unless you plan on having a hermit of a dog that doesn’t even go to the vet for it’s yearly checkup, you’re going to have to introduce your dog to the outside world at some point and the quicker you can do it, the better. It’s easier to mold behavior and prevent problems than it is to fix once they’ve been created.

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Dog Psychology

I am a third generation dog person so it’s safe to say I’ve been around them all of my 30 years. I don’t have a certificate or diploma from any schools or universities, but training dogs is my life. A good ‘word picture’ for how I communicate with canines came from an acquaintance of my sister’s. She studied language in college and told Kelli that when you learn a language before the age of 14, you are fluent in it. Saying I’ve been immersed since birth might qualify for an understatement, but it’s the reason I am fluent in canine communication.

Lacey and dogs

One of the biggest things that most people misconceive about training is that it’s all about behavior. While behavior in a dog is what has the most effect on our lives (i.e. jumping, barking, biting, etc.), the mentality of a dog is where the behavior is changed. I get so many people coming to me describing behaviors that their dogs exhibit that they would like changed and most of the time they downplay it, thinking it’s minor.

First example… “Oh, Fluffy is such a good dog. We really don’t have any problems, it’s just that she barks when she’s in her crate and we can’t get her to stop no matter what we do!” Now, in their defense, they aren’t in the business so it’s not their job to see all the problems, but let me tell you what I find when I go to evaluate Fluffy and teach her owners how to get her to be quiet in her crate. I find a dog that has been allowed to be in charge, a dog who has learned to manipulate her owners into rewarding her behavior. Most people would say that’s crazy, since they’ve spent hours beating their head against the wall begging Fluffy to, “just stop, please!”….but guess what. It doesn’t matter what the human thinks, it’s what the dog perceives. And if barking in her crate doesn’t present enough of a negative and Fluffy gets even an inkling of positive, she’s going to outwit and outlast EVERY time. Why wouldn’t she? She has all day to think of ways to get what she wants while you still have to work, pay bills, clean, fix supper, and even take care of Fluffy. By the way, little dogs are notorious for getting away with things because ‘everything they do is cute…’ Have you seen the hundreds of America’s Funniest Home Videos where the little dog is growling, barking, and baring their teeth while everyone laughs in the background?

Dog Psychology

Another example….A dog who was bought for companionship, but also protection. Fido is a Rottweiler and his family got him because they love dogs, but also are interested in having him to ward away any evil-doers. It sounds like a good idea at first, but Fido is a big dog that scares people and he has some aggression issues so his family forgoes the necessity of socialization. I’m called in and told he’s so sweet and amazing with the kids, but has bit the mailman, twice. Most people can’t for the life of them figure out what to do. They wanted him for protection, so they “can’t take that out of him” but the mailman is threatening to sue if they don’t do something.

Rottweiler_kopf_2

What do these two dogs have in common even though it seems like not much? The mentality of the dog…. Fluffy has been allowed to get away with things (even rewarded for them in her mind) and when I come in to set things straight, she gets angry. I literally had a dog CLIMB the lead to get at me when I told them they weren’t in charge. All because the owner didn’t see that the crate barking wasn’t the only problem. Fluffy had LOTS of problems, but her owners were paying more attention to her actual behavior than her mentality. Just because a behavior doesn’t peg out the inconvenience radar doesn’t mean that it isn’t detrimental to the entire owner/dog relationship. Fido has been allowed to become a bully. He loves his family because he’s grown up around them, but he’s not too keen on anyone else entering the picture (think typical step-parent/step-child relationship where one parent is being ‘replaced’) and he’s been allowed to think that he’s in charge. He’s not the head of the household and he can’t possibly be, he’ll never be able to pay bills, fix the screen door when it’s broken, or even call the doctor to make a yearly checkup appointment. He also missed out on being properly socialized to learn that if his owner deems someone friendly, he must follow suit and treat said visitor with respect and a friendly attitude. Protection can’t be taken out of a dog by teaching them not to be aggressive towards good people. It would be like thinking your spouse wouldn’t protect you in a dangerous situation because they aren’t jealous of everyone who speaks to you.

So what do we take out of these situations? Pay attention to your dog’s brain as much as you do his behavior. I spend more time ‘brain training’ than I do physical training on a lot of dogs because I want that relationship. I want a dog who takes cues from me on how to act and react. I don’t want a dog who has such little faith in me that they think they can or must be in charge. Because the damage it does to their psyche when they are forced into a job they can’t do or are uncomfortable doing is more than you’ll ever realize.

confused dog

I’ll never learn

Ok, so am I the only one who seems to be as dumb as a box of rocks sometimes when it comes to certain things? Let me explain… There are a few issues that push my buttons. Not a lot, but a handful of subjects that I can get super passionate about. And when I get passionate about something, I can’t always bite my tongue, or maybe it’s my fingers in the case of things posted on the good old world wide web. The dumb part is why I think saying ANYTHING will make a difference, because it NEVER does.

I have gotten myself into more than one heated debate by sticking my nose in on someone else’s conversation about the things they believe, obviously whether they have all the facts about it or not. Now that does not mean that I haven’t been guilty of forming opinions on things I shouldn’t, but I also hope that if someone uncovers my faux pas that I don’t just shoo them away because they might have a good point. So, tell me, what do you all think (all 4 of my readers 😉 ) about standing up and making your voice heard?? Does it do any good or is it just another fart lost in the wind for some people who just want someone to agree with them?