So, you get a dog, you think nothing but wonderful thoughts and maybe you were even told some really good things to make you not think that anything bad can happen…
and then things start to happen…
You see issues with other dogs, people, aggression, assertiveness, or possibly fear-based behaviors. Plus, it isn’t always the same instance and you can’t see consistently the same thing happen every time.
You sit down in your chair and think “How did this happen?” “Do I need to take him/her back?” “Did I get a bad dog?”
Your next step is to get mad at the person who gave you the dog and think what on earth happened? What did they do to the dog?
You were told the dog was good with other dogs, good with kids, good when out in public.
What you’re actually finding is that none of these things are true. It may even go as far is you were told that the dog was cat tested and it is clearly a lie.
You took on the responsibility of a new dog thinking it was going to be like all the others, but now you found that it is not like the others and can you handle it?
Let’s throw another side wrench to this equation and say you have had a dog for years and suddenly your seeing the dog in a different light due to a life change, dog change or transition. Your life is turned upside down within a short period of time. Now what do you do?
This is the thing, most dogs are going to require work. However, one thing that suffers the most with rescue dogs or dogs that are rehomed through a rescue or from the Internet is SOCIALIZATION has been limited or done incorrectly. Behavior isn’t noticed right away and can become worse over time.
So what do you do?
Here’s some facts.
The best time to properly socialize and desensitize a dog is under six months. So from 10 weeks to six months, the amount of change in a dog make up sexually and maturely is huge. Plus, everything that happens to them is happening for the first time so the dog is building it’s knowledge based on memories and scenarios. Which means, if it has negative scenarios it learns to avoid those items and if it has positive experiences it learns to be confident.
If a dog is around a lot of dogs in a positive way for a long period of time, they’re going to see Dog’s as a positive thing. If they’re around kids from early on and have a lot of positive experiences with kids, they’re going to think kids are great.
On the flipside, if the dog is rarely around other dogs or is rarely around kids, the specific experiences that it has had is based on it’s knowledge on the subject. Example: It has three experiences with dogs and only one was positive, it may not feel as confident about dogs. It has three experiences with children and two of those experiences involved negative circumstances, the dog may start to shy away from children thinking they all are the same.
Regarding ownership and training, the dog only knows what is has been taught and how things are run at home. Things don’t change if there isn’t concern seen. Over time, symptoms become worse due to habit.
Does genetics matter?
Yes, genetics play a valuable role. If genetically, the dog was nervous and scared when it was a puppy and then it has two negative experiences with dogs, it’s going to show even more fear-based behaviors. If genetically, it is happy go lucky and does not have confidence issues and it has two negative experiences with dogs he can still have a positive outcome. Why? I will tell you.
The more balanced a dog is, the better they can handle situations. If a dog is unsure, insecure, or fearful when it’s a puppy it’s confidence in negative situations would be little to none. If a dog is happy go lucky and has a couple negative experiences, it can have a positive outlook primarily because it is not as emotionally affected as it does not have fear-based perceptions.
Now, let’s race forward through time and now a dog is three years old. The puppy who was insecure, unsure and had fear-based behaviors would be just the same if not more and probably not as social. The happy go lucky puppy who is a lot more confident will be even more confident.
Most owners do not think that they need to do anything behaviorally with a dog that is shy or nervous, most think they will just grow out of it and they will be just fine. Reality of the subject is that that dog needs to be guided and shown positive experiences in order to have more faith and trust in the environment. This will then help confidence grow to where the dog will be a lot happier and do better in life.
This is the problem. Most owners do not see issues until the dog is in an adult phase. Once the dog has come into an adult phase and is no longer a puppy who wants to play all the time or a puppy who is scared all the time, they start to see behaviors that are more assertive or reactive. They then become more concerned because obviously the damage when done would be much more harsh than if the dog was a puppy. This also means that socializing a dog to its full potential is a lot more difficult and can be extremely time-consuming. Even behaviors like pack order or “bullying” can increase over time because they were “allowed” to do it without the owner realizing it was happening.
Important factors in tools in resocialize and balance a dog include:
- A balanced pack of dogs that are not reactive
- A behaviorist to understand how to show proper socialization techniques to the new dog in the pack
- Time, lots of time
- Positive associations and memories with each training session
- The correct training tools in order to achieve this.
The most important one on that list is #3. Making up for lost time or building a foundation to a dog that has not had it from the beginning takes lots of time. Depending on the time frame it may not be ideal or work out in that same atmosphere.
As I always tell my clients, it takes one day to learn a bad habit and 27 days to undo that bad habit. Now, think about how many YEARS this dog has been habitually being fearful, scared or insecure. Or how long that dog has been bullying other dogs. The dog is now trying to use that fear as its primary motivator and reason for doing everything.
Think about “superstitions” or “habits” a baseball player has before they go to a game. The player will only wear the same underwear, they will only use a certain bat, they will not say a certain phrase or word the day of the game. Why are these things done? Over time while playing baseball, they learn that certain things work and certain things don’t. They get into habits based on what happens from those activities. They learn that if they sway from this routine and ritual that bad things will happen. So they get into habits.
This is the same with dogs. They learned that if they stay in their comfort zone and don’t go outside of their comfort zone that they can control their life and results. The problem is that if they choose negative scenarios to help them feel better they only grow in a negative way.
Sample, if they learn to bark at someone when they come in through the door as a puppy and it keeps that person at arms length away and no one corrects them, they start to do it more as they grow out of habit. Eventually, they bark enough to where the person can’t even come into the room. They have now manifested that survival skill to help them when really it only made them more nervous and now they are even more scared than when they were little. The scary item when they were a puppy has now grown into a full-size ogre wanting to come after them. (When in theory it is nothing.)
Hopefully now you understand with socialization and behaviors that these things need to be handled right away. A dog that is fearful or insecure or scared, the change isn’t gonna happen overnight it may not even happen over a couple years. Depending on the severity, it could take a lifetime.
For dogs that have acquired a habit based on years of activities, it is going to take more than just a bag of treats to change their mind. You have to retrain the mind which is very difficult. Plus, is the dog going to be open to this change since it could require a complete life change for both of you?
I have come across so many clients lately hitting the 3 year mark with their pups and suddenly things are changing. Behaviors are developing they didn’t see before and now there are questions on behavior and if it can be resolved.
The answer? I can’t tell you. It is different based on every dog. What I CAN tell you is that if you can understand WHY the dog is doing what it is doing and ACCEPT that, you are a lot closer to a happier dog and a happier you. It will also take patience, time and commitment to truly learn how to move forward which is why you MUST consult a behaviorist. Someone who can explain to you what is happening.
The rest is up to you!
And your dog of course! For more information on training, follow this blog and check out or website http://www.ruffacademwi.com. If you need a private consultation, schedule one online and a trainer will come to your home and have a discussion with you after meeting your dog.