What Does ‘Socialization’ of Dogs Mean?


Recently, I’ve been fostering  a dog for a breed specific rescue. The dogs—all purebred, were taken from a hoarding situation. We really don’t know that much about them, but what we do know is from our experiences working with all sorts of dogs.

Many of the dogs were injured in dog fights. Some needed stiches. We think they might have been fighting over bitches in season, or possibly food. They are –or were—all ‘skittish’:  they constantly look behind them  when they were walked. They’d try to hide under furniture or cower in crates. Yet, they all were leash trained, all were housebroken, and none of the dogs is a fear-biter.

It seems to me, these dogs were not  abused in the sense they were brutalized or beaten. They were neglected and hadn’t been exposed to  stimulation from the outside world.  Adding to their trauma was how they were captured and moved.

I have worked in kennels that housed  retired racing Greyhounds waiting for pet homes.  For some reason, the ‘do-gooders’ seem to think these dogs were abused.  Clearly, when you compare them to, say, Pit Bulls taken from open admissions shelters, they haven’t been.  All are calm in the kennels, They don’t generally react to  other dogs barking at them.  They approach strangers with their tails wagging, They never bark franticly.  They walk calmly on leashes without pulling.  Most are even houebroken!  It’s clear that most retired Greyhounds were handled in a loving, responsible manner.  Yet, the do-gooders, with no personal evidence, promote the idea that  these dogs are not well cared for, and if they don’t run, they will be killed. Since the 1960s, because I’ve had pet Whippets (we’ve run non-paramutuel races—no betting), I’ve known NGA Greyhound breeders who always tried to give away  dogs that were duds on the track. But those so-called ‘humane activists’ kept writing that these dogs could not be pets! Yes, they’ll chase and kill a small animal…even a small dog. Lots of dogs—even  those cute Yorkies—will do that.  I’d rather take a chance on a Greyhound than a Cocker Spaniel! Ask any dog groomer.

Not all Pit Bulls are killers. The irony is that many are ‘non-social’ because they’ve been taken from their dams  when they are barely weaned. The backyard breeders of Pits  want to GET RID OF THEM ASAP, so they don’t allow dogs to learn to be dogs and negotiate how to get along with their littermates. That’s the reason so man Pits (& other popular breeds) are nonsocial.

I work for several hobby breeders, and they  do what they think is right in terms of socialization for their puppies. They usually have TV or radio on.  They run the vacuum cleaner around them. They get the pups being used to getting brushed, having their toenails trimmed, and bathed.  What they usually don’t do is take them out to get used to street sounds.

I got my first puppy when he was three-months-old.  I started walking him all over, and allowing people to touch him.     He was an Afghan Hound, and they usually grow out of their puppy personalities when they are a little over a year, and start becoming aloof.  He was aloof!  However,he was never fearful.

My foster dog is adjusting to all the city sounds.  She had, apparently some training, because she responds to the typical obedience commands that pet dogs are often taught.  As we work with her, she will gain more of an attention span, and gain confidence, and not be so skittish.

When we go to dog training classes, we see many puppies.  Decades ago,  for some reason (because we didn’t really understand how animals learn)  pet owners were encouraged  to wait until a dog was at least a year old before beginning training.   These days, we know that as soon as the dog has gotten immunizations,  the dog can join others in training classes. The dog trained young doesn’t have a chance to develop bad habits.  We call this behavior shaping, and it works.

Socialization  is  the  dog being comfortable with other friendly dogs,  being responsive to the humans  the dog lives with, and  being comfortable in his environment. That’s what we mean when a dog is socialized.

 

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