Back to Basics: Socialization
Socialization is the process by which an individual learns the values, behaviors, and social skills, appropriate to their environment and society. If you have been reading this blog, you will already know that the earliest you can have your dog experience the outside world, with your calm demeanor showing them that they have nothing to fear, the better your dog will be when interacting with the outside world.
This includes other dogs. The earlier you can let them be around other dogs, especially balanced ones, the better. But what if that's not what happened with the dog you have now? There are a variety of reasons why this happened and that part is not important. What IS important is that you remain calm and consistent in your work with your dog and know that sometimes it might just take longer. Ultimately, it is YOU that will take your dog to the highest point you can; not trainers, not tons of money, only you, their owner and pack leader.
We would all LOVE to have our dogs be social but ask yourself this question: Are you social, display appropriate behaviors, and do you stay calm? If not, then you cannot expect your dog to be social, display appropriate behaviors, or stay calm in a social setting. The dog is a little moving behavioral mirror of ourselves. It always amazes me when I see an anti-social person with a dog that is social. That makes for an awesome dog! But it's also a little troubling because the fact is if they live with instability they themselves will become unstable, eventually.
It also amazes me that these same people with that kind of demeanor are confused about why their dog might misbehave in a social setting, as if it's only the dog. Or the dog's back story. Or someone else's fault.
I am working with a family that has a situation totally different. I was contacted after their newly acquired large breed dog, a 9-year old Airedale who is a rescue, had a major altercation with the neighbor's dog. She apparently had not been socialized, had not had a social life, and the owners weren't sure if it was a great idea to keep her. After helping them originally on learning how to walk a large breed, I also enlisted the help of my best helper, Koa. After a short little explosion in his direction, she got over it and eventually walked beside and roamed around in her yard unleashed without an issue.
However, once she met all of us on our morning walk, she went after not one, not two, but four different dogs including Koa. Although she will be the subject of the work I'll be doing with her while she stays at Kamp K-9 for 10 days, the short answer for her behavior, I believe, is that she has never gotten the chance to be a dog and have fun. She is constantly on the lookout for a chance to bite another dog and perhaps smaller beings (which is a concern for the owners' great-grandchildren’s' safety) in a calculated "sneak attack" mode. Otherwise a sweet dog, her owners now are of a mind that they will do whatever it takes to rehabilitate her. And you can see it in their demeanor -- much more in charge than before and taking a true leadership role, which you can see in the dog's slight change in behavior. But after 9 years of being a certain way, it will take a bit more intense work to get her happy with life, instead of constantly looking for the fight.
Remember, the most love you can show to your dog is that you will invest however much time it takes to make them happy and social. Stay tuned for her progress, which I will share with you, as well as hers (and my) successes and failures, and until the next time stay calm and social!