Monthly Archives: August 2015

Sociable Behavior

socializationSociable: marked by or conducive to friendliness or pleasant social relations – Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.

The goal is to have a dog’s social behavior be such that it would be welcome anywhere. Sociable dogs are willing to go up to people and other dogs when invited but they also have enough calmness that everyone in the environment is comfortable with their presence. These dogs land in the middle of the sociability spectrum. On one far end of the spectrum we have dogs that are fearful or aggressive (unfriendly behavior) and on the other end of the spectrum we have dogs that are overly friendly to the point of rudeness. Neither end of the spectrum is sociable. In the middle of the spectrum is a dog that is calm but willing to interact with other people and dogs. It is this middle part of the social spectrum that owners want to shoot for in the socialization of their dog. Many dog’s sociability lies on just either side of the middle of the sociable spectrum where they are not really relaxed but can become relaxed with time. These dogs may not be a “problem” but behavior is not stagnant so they are at risk of developing problems.


The critical socialization period of the dog is between 8 and 16 weeks of age but socialization does not end there. The social behavior of the dog does not plateau until 3 years of age. Socialization must continue well into adulthood. Dogs and puppies need to interact (not necessarily play) with dogs that will not hurt them or destroy their confidence and they need safe exposure to a large variety of dogs (dog that are bigger, smaller and noisy) people, environments and noises.

To help owners to adequately socialize dogs of all ages The Well-Mannered Dogs classes teach controlled socialization regardless of the age of the dog but the socialization process is very controlled so all dogs receive a positive, safe experience. While in class, owners learn how to properly socialize their dog to strangers, novel objects, and dogs they do not know as well as how to other social experiences. In addition it is important that dogs learn to follow commands even when they are in the middle of playing with other dogs. This prevents them from becoming overly excited (which can lead to social issues).

Some dogs need more than basic socialization, they already have some serious issues. They may bark fearfully, bite or display some type of agonistic behavior (growl, snap, lung in a non-playful fashion, bite or fight). Dogs that are really challenged and become fearful, aggressive or just extremely stressed when around new dogs or people need some specialty training.   These dogs need remedial training which involves an even more controlled environment and they need a training program that uses desensitization, counter conditioning and classical conditioning to change the dog’s emotions to relaxation or happiness.


Having Your Dog In Public Is A Training Privledge

in publicThe average American thinks training a dog is an event that happens during a relatively short period of their dog’s life (6-8 weeks). They attend group or private classes for a certain number of weeks and once it is over they think, !the dog is trained! and they no longer work with their dog. But people who have the goal of having their dog attend public events, go into stores, restaurants, hikes and attend family vacations or even just want to have company come over, understand the value of attending formal classes for a much longer period of time. In Europe you will routinely see dogs in public, lying calmly under the table inside a restaurant, inside stores etc. We never gained this privilege in the US, because most Americans do not train their dog long enough or to the extent necessary to allow this privilege.

The average beginning class gives owners time to master the barest basics necessary to have their dog under control in public. Both the dog and the owner have much better skills than before they started but the dog’s skills are not adequate for difficult distractions or maintaining their self-control over a long period of time. Although the owner has the knowledge of what to do to help their dog behave in public, this knowledge is not a part of them yet. They do not react instinctively and must think hard to know what to do when the dog misbehaves. Usually this lapse of time causes the dog to receive an inadvertent reward for naughty behavior. By spending time attending advanced classes and applying this training in public dogs and owners gain the skills, knowledge and confidence to be welcome in public because they display calmness and ease.

Dog Emotions

fearJust like us, dogs are emotional beings that experience fear, anxiety, aggression and over-excitability. It would be fair to say these emotions can be the cause of considerable concern or frustration for owners.  But  these emotions can be changed though specialty training that implements desensitization, classical conditioning and counter conditioning. So if you have a dog with these types of issues take heart they can be greatly improved.  Read on to understand what desensitization, counter conditioning and classical conditioning entails.

Changing a dog’s emotions requires working the dog a distance from stimuli that is so great that the dog can eat, relax and not be concerned about the stimuli it previously has reacted to. Ideally the distance is such that the dog does not display any negative emotional reaction. Once numerous successful responses have been obtained at this level of training the dog will be moved closer to the upsetting stimuli.

Counter Conditioning
Counter conditioning is a process in which an undesirable response is replaced with a desirable response. When we are working to change a dog’s emotions the undesirable response would be fear, aggression, anxiety, or even over-excitability while the desirable response would be relaxation. Changing a dog’s emotions requires that we put the dog under conditions in which it can relax while we reward relaxation.

Classical Conditioning
As dogs experience their environment they form positive, negative or neutral associations based on their experience. Things in the dog’s environment are neutral, safe and enjoyable forming positive associations or dangerous and unpleasant forming negative associations. Dogs are always forming associations of this “is safe for me”, “dangerous for me” or neutral. These associations influence the dog’s decisions and are the basis for how the dog reacts to things in the environment.

An Example of A Dogs Association
Most dogs get really excited when the owner gets out their leash. This is because the dog has learned the leash means an enjoyable activity is going to take place. That could be going on a walk or a trip in the car. The dog associates the leash with the fun activity.

Humane, Positive Tools
Changing a dog’s emotions requires that we use tools that never elicit pain, discomfort, fear or startle the dog. We have to convince the dog that we love, enjoy and are happy about the same thing it finds upsetting. This is why I ask each owner to never use a chock, pinch or shock collar. It is important that owners not scold, reprimand or even show despair over their dog’s behavior.

If you have a dog with emotion based issues and would like to implement this type of training to improve quality of life for you and your dog check out our Changing Dog Emotions program for training and of course feel free to give me a call @ 541-603-686 if you have any questions.