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Goals of Dog Socialization?
  • Chewbacca is now 4 months old and we have just completed first puppy class. Some classes he did outstanding, others he was just too distracted and didn't feel like doing the tasks at hand ... but he is still just a young pup. We plan on doing the next class as well.

    In reading over the threads about training/behavior, I started to wonder about the "details" of socialization ...

    What would you experienced dog owners define as the goals of dog socialization?

    Chewie is great at wanting to meet and wanting to interact with all types of people and dogs. His manners are off in that he does "leash flips" as the person/dog approaches. I am working on his not jumping on people and "mouthing" them when they want to pet him, but I am not sure what the goal is with other dogs?

    - Is it to just be around other dogs and be comfortable?
    - Is it to interact/play with dogs? How do I know the other dog won't take a bite out of him?
    - When we go for walks, should I stop and let Chewie "great" the other dog? I have noticed that other owners want their dog to meet my puppy - but I don't want to risk a bad experience, so I just say 'no'.
    - if he grows up thinking that every dog we come in contact with is a "play-buddy" ... I would think this could be disastrous if he doesn't develop some form of caution?

    As a puppy right now, he REALLY wants to play with them - will this change into aggression as he gets older if I don't step up our socialization? We have no other animals in the household.

    I have heard too many bad stories about our local dog park - so we won't be visiting it. I have not looked into the local doggy day-care yet.

    Chewie's present socialization schedule:
    We go for two walks a day and will usually see (in passing) another dog or two.
    Puppy class once a week (they only get about 10 minutes of free time while each dog is still on leash).
    We get together with another pup (bull terrier - same age) once every other week for them to play.

    Is this enough?

    [mod edit: re-categorized due to addition of new category]
    Post edited by sunyata at 2013-06-06 09:49:08
  • There are many goals to socialization, but I suppose if I tried to categorize in one thing, I'd say it is getting a dog used to different people/animals/situations, so the dog can be comfortable in a variety of situations and not be fearful or aggressive (often based in fear). The ultimate goal is to have a happy, well adjusted dog who can be taken to a variety of places without fear.

    Now to break it down a bit more:

    --other dog socialization: the point is so that a dog learns how to read signals sent by other dogs and how to react to them appropriately (ie. without aggression, fear or just plain old rudeness, like jumping in another dog's face). This is best achieved through off leash play with a variety of well adjusted dogs, esp. well socialized adult dogs. Dogs will let the pup know when it is behaving inappropriately. This is particularly important with a dog that does not live with other dogs, but even dogs that do live with other dogs need to be around unfamiliar dogs too. A puppy socialization group should include off leash play time, and 10 minutes on leash is not enough. It is also not enough to just play with family dogs or one dog friend (though that is good), because they need to get used to other dogs too. Seeing dogs while on a walk is not enough either.

    --People: basically the same thing, but also it is important that your dog see different people than your family. People of different races/ages etc. People in hats. Bicycles, wheelchairs, skateboards. Groups of people. Men with beards. Etc. This is so your dog doesn't freak out when, at 8 months or a year or whatever, the dog suddenly sees, say, a man with a beard and starts barking uncontrollably. Or a child. Or a person of a different race from you, etc.

    --Situations: same thing. Get a dog used to rides. To a crate (even if you don't usually use one). To being alone. To ceiling fans (I can't tell you how many of my dogs suddenly "discovered" something like a ceiling fan and freaked out). Stairs, etc.

    Read Ian Dunbar's Before and After You Get Your Puppy. It is available online as a free download. Now while he stresses socialization so much that sometimes people feel like a failure if they don't quite hit his mark, at least you'll get an idea of why it is important and what some goals can be.

    In answer to your questions: yes you should let him greet well behaved dogs if the owners are willing and he wants to. Ask first.

    Yes you should let him play with other dogs. If you know the dog, or it is in a dog class with playtime (and puppy classes SHOULD have off leash playtime), then you can be safe doing so. If a dog gets too rough, intervene, but it is ok for other dogs to warn your dog that they don't want to be jumped on, have a dog in their face, etc. They will do that through growls, snarls, snapping, or perhaps even a warning bite. One thing a puppy learns from these interactions is bite inhibition--i.e. how to not bite too hard or inappropriately. Your puppy needs to learn this.

    And no, it is not enough socialization, esp. not off leash socialization. Bottom line, there can never me too much socialization, and it needs to continue as a dog gets older. It's always the thing I regret when I haven't done enough of it, because I see it, quickly, in my dog's behavior with unfamiliar dogs/unfamiliar situations.
  • Koji's momKoji's mom
    Posts: 632
    We did heavy heavy socializing as puppy and beyond, doubled up on puppy classes, parks (not dog parks, people parks) malls, etc...

    Koji was also suuuuper enthusiastic as puppy...I would not worry about that...through the socialization he will learn his manners and get better and better at speaking doggie language.

    your dog will naturally get more discriminating as they age...with experience he will learn to read other dogs - Koji is very savy now about other dogs...he knows who's friendly and who is not...who needs to be ignored and who he wants to play with like a total spaz...

    Can not socialize too much...and if other owners want to meet your puppy I would take every opportunity...of course keep at distance until you've asked the person and they look sane and nice :)

    ditto to @Shibamistress about Dunbar book and use meet and greet exercises from book and from puppy class..
  • Thanks for the input ... I guess I need to step up his "doggie socialization" and not be so protective.

    I do have Dunbar's book (all good advise) - I am just finding it challenging to do all the socialization that he recommends.

    Chewie just goes out of his mind with excitement when meeting other dogs ... jumps on them, jumps at them, etc. Any dog older than 1 year finds his enthusiasm overwhelming and will immediately start giving warning growls and lip curls. Of course, none of this phases my pup - he just revs up the energy more! This is why I become concerned, because the next option the adult dog will be left with is a bite - but since these are friends dogs that seem well behaved - I guess it would be a warning bite they give and not a damaging one?

    Our Puppy Instructor did say that he was very well adjusted and socialized, just needs to grow up a bit to learn his manners. Is this correct in that Shiba's will calm down a bit with the enthusiasm when meeting new people/dogs?
  • XabiXabi
    Posts: 432
    Your puppy may need to be told by a dog that it's acting too impulsively, or you can start developing his impulse control with the "ask by sitting" command. I tried my hardest to take my shiba with me everywhere, and luckily I live by a nice outdoor mall which we frequented. I would take treats with me and so when people would ask to pet my puppy (which was every ten seconds or so), then I would say "he needs to sit first." I'd use the treats if necessary. At first it was necessary to treat him, but after doing it enough times, it came easier and easier. I'd also give treats to strangers if I thought they would be okay with it. There are also dogs there with a great frequency, so that helps for dog on leash-to-dog on leash interaction. If you have a place like that you can go, then finding all types of strangers/people shouldn't be a problem. If you don't have a place like that, I'd see if you have a Lowe's Hardware Store, because they tend to be dog friendly and you can walk up and down the aisles meeting all kind. Variety and exposure are the big issues you want to achieve through your socialization exercises. Shibamistress is right on the money with her assessment. I certainly think the puppy classes are worth it, and if you need to go to more than one that isn't a ridiculous concept.
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  • AnnaAnna
    Posts: 621
    The most important part of Hammond's dog socialization was/is teaching him how to appropriately greet other dogs. He loves everything he meets and wants to play, but he's incredibly rude about it. His default "greet" has always been to either stick his nose right in another dog's face, nip at their cheek to instigate wrestling (definitely a play move, not aggression, because he play bows immediately after doing it), or punch them in the face with his paws.

    Obviously other dogs don't appreciate his behavior, haha, so it's been a matter of teaching him how to approach other dogs in ways that won't get him bit/start a fight.

    Continuing puppy classes works on that. General obedience we did also had lessons on greetings.
  • TallygroupTallygroup
    Posts: 51
    @Anna .. You described EXACTLY what Chewie does and my concerns! We did not cover "lessons on greetings" in our puppy class (which he will graduate from tonight!). I would like to know if there is something that I should be working on with him regarding lessons on how to greet other dogs? We will be doing more classes after this one.

    I found a "Doggie Day-Care" that we tried this week. They have "Dachshund Mondays" :) ... the owner of the Day-Care told me that the Dachshunds were great at teaching manners to puppies.

    Chewie had a 4-month old Springer Spaniel and a 6-month old Golden Retriever to play with, but they were in a space with 8 Dachshunds ranging in age from 1-yr to 7-yrs. Chewie approached the 7-yr old with his usual exuberance and was growled at. Of course, Chewie took this to mean 'play' so he started jumping in the older dog's face - which led to a "nip". Chewie then sat back and just stared at that dog for a while and then went off to play with the others.

    Haha! ... the owner said that Chewie is persistent in that about every 20 minutes he would approach that 7-yr old again - in different ways to see what would engage him.

    I do think Chewie learned some things from the Dachshunds, so we will be going back next Monday.

    Thanks everyone for the input! .. it inspired me to search out this Doggie Day-Care and to understand that I need to "step-up" Chewie's socialization schedule! :)
  • AnnaAnna
    Posts: 621
    @TallyGroup I forget which class we went over greetings in, Hammond's been in a ton, haha.

    But we practiced by pairing up, walking towards each other, letting the dogs sniff for like 5 seconds, then clicking, treating, and continuing walking. So basically we rewarded them for a good greet because it didn't even last long enough for them to be assholes, haha. If the dogs got too rowdy as we approached, we'd pause, have them sit, focus on us (with Hammond I'd have to break his attention by giving him the Nose or Paw command, because sitting didn't require any focus for him), click/treat, then start to approach again.

    Basically ONLY approaching when they're calm enough to have a chance to greet nicely, then leaving before they get too comfortable/rowdy.

    Hammond also thinks growling is play (one off-leash dog in a leash-required area actually went after Hammond once, biting and snarling and trying to attack him. I've never seen Hammond so happy. Tail wagging, play bowing, rooing). He loves to terrorize my friend's shih tzu, who wants nothing to do with him.
  • redcattooredcattoo
    Posts: 1960
    @Anna, I think what you are describing is usually done at basic obedience levels. The goal of this is not for dogs to necessarily socialize with each other it is for them to learn control and manners around other dogs especially when out on leash. That greeting is actually the 8th test criteria for the CGC (Reaction to another dog), so is often practiced by those who haven't yet achieved CGC status.

    Now puppy classes will usually have play sessions, which this is good for learning social manners with each other when given opportunity (like in a dog park) to freely chose to interact off leash.

    @Tallygroup, sounds like you have found a place that can work on Chewie's ability to read and understand other dogs; hence, hopefully learning some manners. I think it is cute that he kept trying new approaches with the older dog to figure out what was appropriate. It is also nice that there seemed to be also dogs his age as they need to learn not only from adults but those with as much youth as them.
    Post edited by redcattoo at 2013-05-01 13:16:04
  • I couldn't find a better place for this. My apologies moderator(s).

    Banjo recently started lying down when he sees a new dog (or even a dog-friend). I understand this (from CM who I only sometimes agree with) to be an invitation to play/friendly gesture. If that's the case, I want to "reward him" for it (not with a treat, but by actually having him say hello). Right now, he stays lying down staring at the other dog until I say "go say hi". Then he runs over and makes his greeting. Its never turned into a problem although some more mature dogs will correct him (a growl, a walk away, etc) if he lingers too much at the face-sniff. It looks like a good corrective behavior from the older dog and he seems to react properly as Banjo will then butt-sniff a new dog, or try to start a game with his friends.

    I just wanted confirmation I am handling this properly as like I said, CM calls this a good move but he isn't always my favorite resource.

    (he is 8 months old on Sunday and fixed)

    Thanks =)
  • It's a little odd....but maybe it's part of some play stalking behavior on his part? It certainly can be play, though it is not the typical play bow type invitation to play. My dogs do this with dogs they know well sometimes, but not with strange dogs, and it's never what they do first--it's always later, as part of a game with other dogs they've already greeted, and is usually part of playing chase.

    It sounds more like he expects you to stop him, and he's focused on the object of desire (the other dog) so he's waiting to get permission to go play.

    Unless he immediately leaps on the other dogs and that is causing problems, I'd probably neither reward it or correct, but just watch it. Unless you want him to do this, in which case, sure, reward it, but it's odd enough that I'd probably just ignore it. I don't know that you need to do anything at all with it, really, as it sounds like it is not a problem, but maybe just a little quirk of his.

  • HirokiHiroki
    Posts: 89
    Hiroki does this too, I think only with unknown dogs though. He slows down and does "sneaky legs" until eventually coming to a lay. If the other dog doensn't seem interested, he waits til they've gone and then gets up and carry on. If they show an interest he either gets up when they start sniffing him, or if they seem a bit more excited he tries to run straight at them (not ideal!) - it's better than when he used to just run up to everyone though! I've seen similar behaviour from sheepdog/collie type breeds - sometimes I worry we'll get stuck in a stand-off (lay-off?!) situation!
  • AntoinetteAntoinette
    Posts: 887
    Quake is reactive to most dogs ever since he was attacked by a Bull Mastiff about one year and one half ago. He has made some dog friends recently. I am pet sitting one of his doggy friends tonight. Quake has had one of his doggy friends over before and he was a very good host. However, that time the Pet Mom of the other dog was there with us too. This doggy friend is a very anxious Bichon who really loves Quake and that's the reason his Pet Mom asked me to pet sit for tonight while she goes out. I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions.
  • Since you mentioned quake is sometimes "posessive-ish" over his treats, I would be mindful of giving any high value items (food, treats, toys etc, although from my experience dogs tend to be able to share water) to them unless they are completely separated. In fact, I wouldn't bring them out at all to be on the safe side, but that's just me.

  • AntoinetteAntoinette
    Posts: 887
    @Banjo-thanks for responding. I was thinking the same thing--not to have any toys, food, treats around just in case Quake decides to resource guard. He would probably scare the heck out of the poor Bichon. I don't want that to happen. He did seem fine sharing his water bowl when another doggy came over to visit.
  • BootzBootz
    Posts: 3495
    @Antoinette

    #1 - introduce them on mutual grounds
    #2 - take away all valued items in the house, like Banjo recommended
    #3 - Let the dog sniff around the house a bit to familiarize itself, before letting them loose together
    #4 - always supervise them, keep them separate if you can't.
  • AntoinetteAntoinette
    Posts: 887
    @Booz-thanks for the suggestions.
  • StaticNfuzzStaticNfuzz
    Posts: 1814
    Responding here based on the title of the thread. The goals should be individual to the dog, location, age of the dogs and issues at hand. Off leash vs on leash the signals may vary.

    http://thedoggurus.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Is_My_Dog_Happy.pdf
    Post edited by StaticNfuzz at 2014-05-13 15:40:34
  • AntoinetteAntoinette
    Posts: 887
    Update on Quake and me pet sitting--I took the advice given and hid all toys and treats so that Quake would not resource guard. I put plenty of water in the water bowl. When the Bichon named Bingo arrived Quake was really happy and wanted to play with Bingo. It was so cute to watch. Unfortunately, Bingo is ten years old so he did not play but he did sniff around and Quake was following him while Bingo sniffed. Bingo was whining due to his separation anxiety and Quake was really nice. I put on a CD called "The Divinity of Dogs" and pretty soon both Quake and Bingo relaxed and just layed around close to each other. Quake seemed to understand that Bingo was having a difficult time and Bingo did stop whining for quite a while. Bingo stayed for about four hours. I kept a close eye on them the whole time. The pet Mom Audrey was so happy to be able to finally get a night out so I am happy that Quake and I were able to help her out. I was very proud of my little boy Quake. He is a very empathetic little boy both to humans and to his little doggy friends.

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