Is it possible to over socialise my dog?
Most people when they get a puppy or dog are flooded with different opinions and techniques on how to best socialise them. Some of this advice comes friends and family, the internet, or even a trainer. Knowing what is best for your furry companion can be pretty overwhelming. We are going to look at what over socialisation is, how to properly socialise, and what happens when you over socialise a dog.
What is over socialisation and what does it look like?
First of all, socialisation is a process that a dog goes through in order to learn life skills within its environment. This is meeting new people, dogs, and being in new situations. But if done wrong, it can lead to all sorts of issues. Things that can over socialise your dog are:
A puppy class with no structure
Large group dog walks where the dogs have been mismatched
Allowing your dog to meet every one end every dog while they are out in about.
A puppy class where the dogs are allowed to rough and tumble play with no structure is a breeding ground for bad habits. A good puppy class should have structure where the dogs are matched with the right kind of dogs to ensure the maximum benefit along with breaks. Puppies that are allowed to play without structure run the risk of becoming a bully or being the victim of a bully. It also teaches them that all dogs are approachable with zero consequences.
Like the puppy classes, a poorly structured group or pack walk can create the same problems. Dog walkers that mismatch a group can create a bully culture. This can be due to lack of canine behaviour knowledge from the dog walker. Your dog can still get socialisation with 1 to 1 walks. If really want your dog in a group, be sure to ask a few questions to the walker:
What is your knowledge on canine behaviour?
How do you match the dogs?
What do you do should the dogs not get along?
How many dogs do you walk at a time? (Most insurance companies only insure up to 6 dogs)
When you take your dog to the park or in another busy public place, you may be tempted to allow everyone to come up and pet them. While this is important, ensure they are taking things slow and pay attention to your dog for signs or stress. A dog that gets stressed around humans can lead to reactive behaviours and possible human aggression. Same goes for allowing every dog you see to meet your dog. Would you be happy having to go up and hug everyone you saw on a walk? ......I didn't think so!!
What do all 3 of these have in common? Lack of structure. Your dog looks to you for guidance and protection. If you do not offer this, your dog will lose confidence, trust in you, and could become reactive. If your dog is around other dogs all the time with no structure, they'll always think it's playtime. This is where you lose manners, impulse control, and attention to commands. Even worse, they may run up to an unfriendly dog and cause some serious issues.
Dogs that are over socialised will not pay attention to behavioural cues and body language from other dogs. This can lead to fights if allowed to go on without interrupting. Other behaviours seen in an over socialised dog are having no boundaries, little to no impulse control, lead pulling, stress and anxiety, as well as problems with recall and manners.
How do I properly socialise my dog?
Socialising a dog is not as easy as it seems. It takes time and patience. You want quality interactions, not quantity. 10 nice and pleasant experiences/interactions is way better than 100 bad or unsure ones!
Firstly, choose your dog's friends wisely to interact with. Your dog's friends need to be well mannered, calm, and tolerant. Your dog's friend is going to be a much needed role model to help teach them what is acceptable and what is not. You will also want to do this preferably in a garden off lead.
Why off lead?
A lead creates a barrier and can induce to stress. If your dog gets scared on a lead, they feel like they cannot get away. A dog that feels cornered may resort to biting as they feel there is no other way. A dog that is off lead will have the opportunity to get away from what is making them nervous and much less likely to strike out.
Once your dog has had a little time to make friends, reward them for coming back to you or looking to you. This will strengthen their trust in you. It also lets them know you are there to keep them safe and that's exactly what you want them to associate!
(Image from www.doggiedrawings.net)
Some of the same principals go for new humans meeting your dog. The illustration above is a great way for someone to introduce themselves without being too scary. Be sure to communicate clearly to any new person what you would like them to do when meeting your dog. Remember, you must be your dog's advocate!
When doing any type of introduction, make sure you are paying close attention to your dog's body language. If they seem tense or stressed, call it off and try again another day. Remember: quality over quantity!
We hope you have enjoyed this information on dog socialisation! We have other blog posts relating to various pet care topics so please go check them out. Also don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram!