We've all heard it, "You have to socialize your dog!!" If your dog has aggression towards other dogs, people or animals the answer as to why is a simple one; (YOU!) didn't socialize your dog properly.
Shame on you!
Well, the simple fact is that this socialization myth has been permeating the dog training world for decades and has resulted in countless dogs being injured, surrendered or lead to the development of severe behavioral and aggression issues. Most dog owners believe that their dogs are social creatures, the long lost ancestor to the wolf who desperately needs to run with dogs, visit dog parks and have countless people pet and treat them.
Well, here's the deal...your dog is not a wolf.
I hate to repeat myself but I need to say it again, your dog is not a wolf. Even if your dog evolved from wolves and shares 99% of their DNA with wolves, (there is a link to an interesting article on the subject at the end of this article), your dog is still not a wolf!
Your dog is the product of hundreds and in many cases, thousands of years of careful and painstaking selective breeding for very specific traits and behaviors. This is something that is so often overlooked and underappreciated by dog owners and dog trainers alike. Our modern dogs are not wolves and for that matter they're not "dogs" in the sense that they are all the same and can be handled the same. Dogs are far more special and unique then that.
Your dog's breed and lineage absolutely matter and this is something that should be honored and respected, not something that we should simply brush off. I admire the dedication of breeders who developed livestock guardian dogs over the last 6000 plus years and who have created the most effective way ever developed for humanely controlling predators and managing to keep livestock safe; ensuring food, milk and trade for our human ancestors.
I admire the shepherds who developed one of the most remarkable dog breeds on earth today, the working Border Collie who is an absolute marvel and who's abilities, talent and biddability are arguably unmatched by any other creature on earth.
I admire the hunters who developed hound dogs, whose sense of smell are so refined and so fine tuned that they can detect a tiny drop of scent from up to miles away.
These selective, purpose driven, breeding programs have changed our world and changed mankind and we are not honoring dogs nor are we honoring the hard work of these breeders by simply tossing all dogs into a bucket and expecting them to all be alike or worse, dumbing down and softening these breeds so that they can be turned into pets.
Many dog breeds have been selectively bred to NOT want to be social with random dogs and strangers. In fact, it is far more natural for a dog to be reserved than it is for a dog to want to go and play with every other dog they see and receive treats and pats from complete strangers. Since virtually all dog breeds were created with some sort of working purpose, it stands to reason that a dog that would ignore outside stimulus and focus on the task at hand would be a much more desirable dog, thus these dogs would be bred and others would not.
If a shepherd had a herding dog that would flee it's sheep to play with the first dog it saw, this would be a completely useless dog to perform any sort of job that mattered. If a Dobermann, Rottweiler, or Mastiff would leave post to cuddle up to the first stranger that it saw, or happily allow them to rob your homestead, this would not be a very desirable dog and would certainly be eliminated from the gene pool.
With all of this vast knowledge available at our finger tips, why is it that we are not honoring our dogs and we are continuously putting them into environments that make them uncomfortable, nervous and are totally unnatural for them? Why are forcing dogs with hundreds, and in many cases thousands of years of purposeful selective breeding behind them, to accept and want to be pet by random strangers?, or have multiple random dogs approach them in a completely unacceptable way?
I think the answer is simply because we humans think this is what we should be doing; dog parks, large playgroups, pass the puppy exercises and so on. Now, many dogs and breeds are totally friendly and enjoy people and enjoy playing with dogs and that's great and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem comes when we have a nervous dog, or a dog that would prefer to be left alone and instead of honoring the dog, we force them into compromising positions over and over and over again by demanding that they accept strangers petting them, demanding they play with other dogs, and bringing them into scary environments. It's this sort of action that results in severe behavioral issues down the road such as reactivity and even aggression in some cases as our dogs are forced to defend themselves (since we won't).
Proper socialization means that we honor our dog and we honor their breed and character. Your dog, regardless of breed and temperament must be able to exist in public but your dog doesn't have to have their trust in you compromised by you allowing and forcing the invasion of their space. Proper socialization means exposing your dog to people, dogs and situations where nothing bad ever happens to them and as a result their confidence is built up and their trust in you reinforced.
Proper socialization can help your dog overcome aggression issues, reactivity issues, as well as fear and confidence issues- improper socialization is too often the causal agent of the problem behaviors listed above.
Make sure to practice proper socialization, if your not sure how please contact Mayrich Kennels Inc. as we have some of the only trainers and programs available in Canada that teach proper socialization. Remember to honor your dog, because breed really does matter!