Currently my case load of work with dogs that have social issues is double its normal volume. Social issue are really difficult on the owners of these dogs as well as the dogs themselves as quality of life becomes limited with this problem. There are 3 keys to avoiding this problem but many people are minimizing the degree to which this is important. This is a problem and I could use your help with it. Before I explain how you can help, let me give you some background.
In most cases social issues are avoidable. It requires owners to be proactive in providing their dog with quality, controlled experiences very early in life, avoidance of using aversive training techniques and continued support and exposure through the first 3 years. All of this is easier said than done but there are some basic rules that can make it easier. You can help reduce the likelihood of social issues by sharing these rules with anyone who has a dog (friendly, family, co-workers, acquaintances, and yes the person you pass on the street).
3 keys to avoiding social issues
- Start early – As report in a study conducted by Rachel A Casey and Published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 152, 52– 63, puppies who attend just 2 puppy socialization classes prior to 12 weeks of age have 1.4 times less chance of social having issues directed towards people entering the house and 1.6 times less chance of social issues directed towards strangers outside of the house. You can encourage everyone you know with a puppy to start classes at 8 weeks of age.
- This same study shows dogs that receive aversive training techniques, defined in the study as – physical punishment (hitting the dog), verbal punishment (shouting), electrical or citronella collars, choke chains and jerking on the leash, prong collars, water pistols, electric fences and so forth have a 2.9 times the risk of aggression directed towards family members and a 2.2 times increased risk of having aggression issues directed towards strangers. You can help by encouraging dog owners to adopt a proactive positive approach to their training. They will need the help of a trainer who does not use aversive training techniques.
- Behavior is not stagnate, is requires continued influence from us. Encourage dog owners to have continuing education for their dogs. They can take refresher courses, advanced fun classes and continuing education classes. While in classes their dog will receive quality socialization. Encourage owners to continue taking classes with their dog.
Using and sharing these 3 keys to avoiding social issues will greatly affect your dog and the dogs around you. Share them far and wide. Spread the word and watch as dogs become more socialized and owners get to enjoy their dog more.
References: Rachel A. Casey, Bethany Loftus, Christine Bolster, Gemma J. Richards, Emily J. Blackwell (2014).Human directed aggression in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): Occurrence in different contexts and risk factors. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 152, 52– 63