If you have a dog, then you have probably heard of "socialization". It is often told to owners of dogs with bad manners that the bad behavior is due to lack of socialization. For a term that is so often used, there are still few people who understand how to properly socialize and how critical it is to preventing dog bites.
To properly socialize a dog, you will need to desensitize him to whatever things he will encounter in life. Proper socialization requires positive exposure in multiple environments and a variety of situations. Never push a dog into any situation. You want to go at the dogs pace to keep it positive.
An under-socialized dog may overreact to common things, such as strangers, other dogs, cars, strange noises, etc.
Another word for socialization is "desensitization". To desensitize a dog is by helping the dog make positive associations in small increments. It is important not to overwhelm the dog and over-expose him to new things. Forcing and overwhelming a dog can cause a negative reaction and make the dog fearful and aggressive.
An example of proper socialization is to bring the puppy to a group class and only exposing her to friendly dogs (with distance) that she feels comfortable with. When the puppy is calm, the owner gives the puppy treats and praise. If the puppy becomes agitated, the owner moves the puppy further back till the puppy is calm again. Each week the owner needs to bring the puppy closer (within the puppy's comfort) keeping it positive for the puppy.
The key to effective socialization is to keep the entire process as positive as possible for the dog. When your dog makes a positive association with new experiences, he is less likely to develop fear or aggression, reducing the changes of an unwanted bite.
I am an ABC Certified Dog Trainer and owner of Furry Tail Dog Training.
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