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  • Con Slobodchikoff, Ph.D.
    Slobodchikoff is President and CEO of Animal Communications, Ltd., specializing in pet behavior problems and in educating people about the behavior of animals.

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March 31, 2012


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It's important to socialize your dog early as the later you wait the more problems there will be.


I have a small recent problem and I am not sure where to post it.

I have a 7.5 year old white Shepard. He is fixed and he has always been very friendly to other dogs. He would give a warning when other dogs would try to dominate him...meaning mount him. He would just turn quick and go away or at the most bark and nudge. Nothing out of the norm. But since February he is now blind. Cataracts due to diabetes. He was just unlucky because his weight and health were great until 2 years ago. Anyways he is actually doing quite well being blind and can even fetch a ball and run off leash in areas that he is familiar with. But when he meets a dog that tries to mount him or a dog that is for example young and or more wild. He now reacts quickly..barks or growls and he snaps his mouth..I know he can't see where he is snapping so it looks like he is crazy. If the dogs are calm he is fine and will even play well try to at least play. He will even still hang around the dog in question as long as that dog does not try to munt him or be too wild. This happens off leash of course when he is on leash he is with me and I have control. It is a rare situation and does not happen often. When this happens I do give a sharp hey! He stops or the other dog is gone. I don't want to have him on leash all the time because he does love his ball chasing. He is not aggressive in any other way and I think this is more fear or being unsure of the situation. Just asking for any advice. Thank you

My pet's care

This article is so full of important information, it should come with every puppy that is adopted. I will definitely use it with my clients who get new pups or have questions about socializing their puppies.
Thank you. I'll be following this blog!!


Any shelter worker would be thrilled to read this. I've seen my fair share of puppies die of parvo, and the smell is one of those things you can't ever, ever forget, but I've seen many, many, many more die because of a lack of socialization at the beginning of their lives. Dr. Dunbar talks about the shelter dog manufacturing process, and this article, if read by every new puppy owner, could save more lives than any spay/neuter campaign or nonsense "no-kill" effort.

My pet's care

This article is near and dear to me. I am a professional pet sitter and often have clients with new puppies who are basically scared to socialize their pups with other pups their age. I need to copy this as a hand-out for those pet parents! I have two pups that are just about a year old. I was lucky in the fact that I had an older dog in the house wh took over parenting responsibilities when "the girls" first arrived. He was awesome. Stopping play when it got too rough, getting the girls to calm down when I was unable too and generally being a good role model.
Thank you for this post. It will go a long way in helping ne puppies and their parents!

rick smith

I think the topic was sufficiently framed to start a discussion, and I too would like to hear specifics of how to get the most bang for the buck when your pup or mature dog starts to meet the world with you.

re: The process of primary socialization is defined as the development of attachment to mom and littermates."
- regardless of whether that is the accepted academic definition, it seems more closely related to imprinting and species ID rather than in the "training sense" of socializing, which is where the rubber meets the road so to speak.

unless it's feral, the minute a dog leaves it's momma and starts depending on a human it has started along the road of "training by humans". It has been my experience that the more carefully this is planned out and controlled the more chances you will have of a more balanced dog, regardless of what genetics were brought to the table.
- and for sure it applies when the dog is confronted with ANY new stimulus; environmental or social
- the problem with many owners is they don't consider themselves trainers :-)

Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D., CAAB

I have to respectfully disagree with some of the statements in this post that defined "socialization" - namely

•Exposure to the world the dog will be a part of in a safe manner with rules and guidelines
•Learning to be calm when the world is stimulating
•Learning to respond to signals when that is not what they want to do

Those points to me better describe a definition of early or "basic" (not the best term) training than socialization.

We just completed a two part webinar on "What Science Has to Say About Socialization" for members of our In preparation for that we reviewed numerous scientific studies on the socialization process, which included much of Scott and Fuller's work and their colleagues - dating back to the 1950s which was really the time frame when the most objective data collection was done on behavior development in dogs.
The dog training world seems to have significantly expanded its definition of socialization from that which is typically used in the scientific literature as it refers to the social behavior of mammals.
The process of primary socialization is defined as the development of attachment to mom and littermates. Scott and Fuller then also talk about the development of species identity and as my husband and partner Dr. Dan Estep says, who to treat as friends and conspecifics, who to view as "enemies" who can hurt you and who to view as lunch.

Perhaps a better term for the procedures being discussed in this article are "early experiences". As we discussed in our BEN webinar, there is no one set of early experiences that is the best for all dogs, because each individual dog brings its own genetic tendencies to the table. And in fact as we reviewed the literature, some of the claims made about the effects of certain early experiences on later behavior don't actually hold up when subjected to objective research.
So I think this is a topic that deserves a bit more precise language instead of what seems to be an ever expanding definition of "socialization".

rick smith

Hi all ... been awhile since i posted here, but this one is dear to me.
Most of this was related to puppy development ... that's good to know

Next, since i started training over 20 years ago, my philosophy and techniques for socializing have evolved a LOT !

I would be interested in a discussion about some of the specific goals that one uses as they socialize, both for the pups as well as adult dogs (which are the cases i seem to get the most)
- i have found everyone agrees on what the end product should look like, but all too often actually DO it in MANY different ways that often results in the opposite of what they were trying to teach their dog

I'd be glad to post how I do it, and fwiw, I do not agree it is an art :-)

For me, it is a very precisely planned level of training that depends a lot on what the dog is expected to do for it's life situation, as well as NOT simply being a "take the dog out and expose it to a wide variety of environmental and social stimulus", which is often the entire "plan" for almost every dog owner I work with :-)

I think it would benefit all of the readers if this was discussed in a level of detail that any owner could actually use in daily life.

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