Dog Socialization Vs. Desensitizing
When it comes to dog training “lingo” there is one term we hear requested a lot at Dog Gone Amazing – “Dog Socialization.” Admittedly, it’s pretty impressive how many dog owners truly care that their dogs are getting the proper dog socialization – everyone wants to socialize their dog, and they should! Dog socialization, especially as puppies, is key to helping them become a friendly adult. When you introduce your dog to others and allow them to interact they develop the proper social skills. However, there are a few misconceptions about what this term really means.
WHAT IS DOG SOCIALIZATION?
Dog Socialization is introducing your dog to other dogs and humans. It is a common recommendation for puppies so that the puppy can learn how to understand dog behavior and eventually learn how to adopt it. By interacting with other dogs they learn to read body language and understand energy. This helps them “speak the language” of their species and helps them become comfortable in social situations. When dogs are introduced to new people, it’s a similar process. They can observe different gestures, hear different voices and better understand how humans act and communicate. This makes them more aware and comfortable interacting or…being social.
After over 15 years of experience, one thing we can say with certainty is that dogs actually communicate better than humans. So teaching them to be social with others can be relatively easy. We recommend bringing your dog or puppy around other dogs that you know well. This could be a friend, family or neighbor dog that you know is healthy and calm. We don’t recommend taking a dog who needs socialization to a dog park or unknown environment with stranger dogs where they could be overwhelmed, hurt or exposed to illness.
WHAT DOG SOCIALIZATION ISN’T
“Dog Socialization” has become an all-encompassing term that means “teaching my dog to interact positively with other dogs, people and environments.” This is a major misconception and, in fact, when our trainers hear a request for “Dog Socialization” it’s a cue for us to dig deeper to find out what’s really going on.
If your dog starts to act out of their “norm” when they are in new situations it’s unlikely that this issue has to do with dog socialization. If your dog becomes overly excited, gets defensive, shakes in fear, hides under things or any other reaction different than their normal disposition this is likely an indicator that they need work desensitizing NOT socializing.
WHAT IS DESENSITIZING?
Desensitizing is the process of teaching your dog to be less sensitive towards things in their environment. Many of our clients come to us because they dream of having a dog they can take anywhere who will remain calm and be friendly. This is where desensitization is important. If you have a new dog or puppy, we highly recommend you take them to coffee shops, bars or restaurants with outdoor patios or to outdoor areas with plenty of activity.
This will allow your dog to become comfortable with sounds like cars driving, loud trucks, backfire, motorcycles, bikes going by, skateboards, sirens, people laughing and talking…you see where we’re going with this. In the process, your dog learns that life just happens, it’s no big deal and they will be safe. This process helps your dog become well-adjusted, calm and confident no matter their surroundings.
WHY SHOULD I SEEK DESENSITIZATION TRAINING?
In the example of dog socialization – the dog is simply getting more interaction with other dogs. They are being “social” making it easier for them to learn the dog communication and adopt the disposition of a healthy, normal dog. However, simply exposing your dog to other dogs doesn’t teach them how to become comfortable with the world around them or how to access a calm state of mind.
Desensitization training helps your dog receive plenty of exposure and guidance in a one-on-one environment. This helps them get the support and practice they need to be a well-rounded adult dog that is friendly and calm in all environments.
If you have questions or would like to arrange professional dog training for your dog, take a look at our Dog Training Programs. Or give us a call at 775-800-1011 and we’ll happy to answer any questions.