"Habituation processes are adaptive, allowing animals to adjust their innate behaviours to changes in their natural world."
What's NOT Socialisation
It's a very common occurrence amongst dog owners. I would guess most, if not all people reading this Blog will have had an unruly dog run upto them at some point whilst their owner's are trying (hopefully!!) to get them back.
|Dog running from owner|
Even though this dog may in fact be 'sociable' and friendly - the dog & the owner could have committed an offence, simply because you were worried that the dog may injure you. The maximum penalty for allowing a dog you own or are in charge of to be dangerously out of control is two years’ imprisonment, or a fine, or both.
Let's now think that the dog is perfectly friendly & 'sociable' ("oh don't worry he's sociable" - how many times do you hear that?!), however in his enthusiasm for being friendly, the dog bangs into you, knocks you over & you smash your head on the floor causing bleeding. The dog has now injured you & under the above definition has committed an offence - despite the dog being 'sociable'.
The number of times I see big groups of people all with their dogs off the lead causing havoc in the park, whilst their owners walk around chatting to one another. The dogs are free to do whatever they please. Often the pack of frolicking dogs will go bounding over to another dog - all to just "say hello". The dogs are causing havoc yet the owners are plodding around chatting - I know which group are the 'well socialised' bunch . . . .the humans!!
|Dogs running whilst owners char|
Consider the definition for dog socialisation above & think about whether these dogs are interacting with their species acceptably? Are these dogs really sociable dogs? I don't think they are."Socialisation can be described as the process whereby an animal learns how to recognise and interact with the species with which it cohabits"
So when it comes to socialisation the common misconception is to take your dog to meet as many new dogs as possible. Many people try to get their dogs to 'socialise' in a similar way that humans do.
How often do you see on people's CVs that they "like to socialise"? Socialising for humans means surrounding yourself with your friends & peers. Socialising for children means going to nursery or playing in wacky warehouse with other friends & children.
Socialising for dogs does NOT mean playing around with other dogs every time you go to the park nor does it mean when dogs see another dog across the park it's acceptable to start charging over to "say hello".
Socialisation for dogs means that they learn how to recognise and interact with other dogs.
What IS Socialisation
|Sear meeting a Staffie on a walk|
Very often Izzy will be off the lead, so I need to ensure that should the other dog be on the lead I can call Izzy back to put her on the lead without her needing to bound over to "say hello". If the other dog is off the lead then I expect her to interact with the dog properly. If I haven't called her back to me, she will greet the other dog with a sniff & a wag of the tail & happily plod on with us.
I'm not for one minute saying that dogs should be kept apart, because that too is a major problem in itself. Dogs should learn to interact with one another & show no fear nor aggression towards another dog. Another dog should be a complete insignificance to them.
So what is good 'socialisation'?
I instruct the Puppy Class at Solihull Dog Club & the club has a great ethos for correct 'socialisation'.
Solihull Dog Club run the Kennel Club Good Citizen scheme, from Puppy Foundation all the way through to Gold & the theme throughout is the same. During these classes there are many dogs, sometimes up to a dozen in each class. The dogs must learn to pay no attention to the other dogs & to remain focused on their owners. The dog's owners need to learn to pay no attention to the other owners & remain engaged with their dogs.
The puppies are not allowed to interact with each other, however they are allowed to learn how to interact with their species - remember . . . "Socialisation can be described as the process whereby an animal learns how to recognise and interact with the species with which it cohabits"
We bring a well mannered adult dog into the class to allow the puppies to learn to interact with another dog. No playing, biting or jumping around is allowed, the dogs must remain calm, show a friendly greeting & move on with their owners. The puppy should also learn to listen to his owner's commands in the presence of another dog. It's a vital stage of the dog's development.
|Bushka - great dog for socialisation at Solihull Dog Club|
Another of my biggest bug bears is when I see 'Puppy Socialisation' classes! This usually means people get a whole bunch of puppies together & let them run around like lunatics. What exactly are the puppies learning?
|Jemma (left) with Rogue (right) - another dog from Solihull Dog Club|
|Police Dogs working|
Socialisation is more than just making your dog friendly with other dogs, your dog has to learn that not every dog wants to be his best friend and therefore dogs must learn how to interact with other dogs without becoming a pain in the backside. They must demonstrate control & therefore not run upto any other dogs.
Puppy Socialisation and Habituation (Part 1) Why is it Necessary? - Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors