Having a CALMER dog is the common response dog trainers hear when asking potential clients what their goal is for pursuing training. Generally, it takes a combination of exercise, good health, plus training to have a balanced, well adjusted, “calm” dog. Breed has an influence as well but for the sake of this month’s advice I want to share a tip I posed on my Facebook page the other day. The post seemed to resonate with a lot of pet owners. While the information specifically referenced puppies, the advice applies for a dog of any age. The moral of the story is that we need to pay attention to what we are ACTUALLY teaching anytime we interact with our dogs.
Here is the info I shared.
Puppy Socialization: What do those words mean? In a word, it means exposure. Exposure to lots of environments, situations, people, other animals, etc. The more exposure your pup has at a young age, the more he/she can learn to take things in stride later in life due to having built a level of familiarity.
Many new puppy owners take it to mean lots fun, positive and playful exposure to people, and or other dogs. I don’t disagree with that course of action BUT my thoughts differ on the way many people go about the socializing process.
Too often in an attempt to “socialize our puppy” dog owners are inadvertently creating little attention monsters because they allow everyone to meet and greet their pup. They expect everyone to give the dog a treat or play and pet their dog. Every encounter with the outside world seems to involve people lavishing the pup with attention and affection. And then as the dog grows up thinking he/she is the “center of the universe” they grow frustrated with the fact that “my dog gets so excited every time they see another person or dog.”
Well, I hate to break it to you….but you pretty much taught your dog to behave that way.
I am not suggesting we stop allowing positive interactions with people or other dogs…but I am advising we balance it out with times where the pup does not get to say hi and simply has to “mind his own business.”
The simplest way I’ve found to do this with a young pup is to teach them to yield to downward pressure on the leash by placing the foot on the leash, close to the buckle and wait for the pup to settle.
The first time or two they may buck a bit due to being restrained and frustrated. Don’t fuss over that resistance. If you try to coax or intervene you are slowing the process of them learning to calm themselves…let the pup figure it out. As long as the leash is attached to the flat buckle collar the dog is not going to do it for long or injure themselves. Let them settle and CONTINUE to ignore them. Carry on your observation of things going by in the real world, or have a conversation with your neighbor (instruct them NOT to say hi right now) With a bit of repetition your pup will begin learning it isn’t all about them every time they meet someone. You will begin to build a calmness and steadiness that will allow your dog to be more fully integrated into your life and outings in the future.