Socializing and beyond

Her panting was from the huge run she had, not stress.  She looked around, stressed a bit; lay down for a second and then ate treats.  A good experience.  

I clearly remember someone writing to me "I'm sure she is well socialized by now," when I wrote that I had been out socializing Elsa at the age of one year old.  I'm sure to the readers it seemed that I was always out socializing with Elsa and I was.  It hasn't stopped yet, no not yet; even when she is two years old now there is still more to do.  Dogs are in the moment creatures; so they take everything in around them.  Some dogs do more taking in than others; the ones who are far more aware of their surroundings, that's Elsa.  It was also Luke, although now at almost 13 he doesn't give a hoot about many things that may have concerned him in his younger years.

Socializing doesn't end until a dog is well into their adulthood; or at least it shouldn't.  Many dogs who are well socialized as a youngster can lose some of it if you don't keep it up.  I remember my road trip from CA to CT when Elsa was 4.5 months old.  Before the trip we had been out socializing like crazy; but I was very aware that 6 days would go by with very little.  Being stuck in the car was like a vacuum; void of the day to day activities that surround us.  Sure we were in a different hotel each day, new things and sites but she needed more than that.  So as soon as we got landed at our new home in CT we were out and about making up for a lost week.

If you live in a climate where there are severe winters or long stretches of heavy rain or scorching temperatures; you may need to consider extra socializing needs.  Long periods of isolation can in fact create a need to start over, almost.  Of course it depends on the dog; each and every dog is an individual so a long winter may not phase one but another may need to be re-socialized after it.  Dogs can become set in their ways with a lack of socializing and switching things up.  Learning to deal with strange things is a part of life and we owe it to our dogs to show them this.  These lessons do not stop at a certain age; we need to continue to show them all the weird and wonderful things that life brings.

Some folks who live on large properties in the country forget the whole socializing thing because their dogs have more than ample room to run at home.   Socializing is more than just meeting other people with other dogs.  When it pertains to dogs and their adjustment to life, it encompasses everything around them.  A country dog may be well adjusted to their surroundings; perhaps the people who come to visit, but what about outside of their little world?  We owe it to our dogs to show them as much as we can; not limit their ability to deal with life by a lack of introduction to it.

Recently, I was with someone who had just adopted a 3 year old dog.  We were at a horse show and the dog seemed great with the horses, really great.  But, when an elderly man walked by all hunched over with a strange hat, she went crazy.  She growled and backed up; obviously she had not been out and about enough to know that this was just a guy in a hat.  She needed more socializing.  But at three is it too late?   No.  It is never too late to improve your dog's ability to deal with life around them.

Professional canine behaviorist know that the optimum socializing period is approximately between 8-16 weeks of age.  Many think that the door shuts after that time.  I believe that it doesn't shut completely; but lowers slowly.  Yes, the best time to get the most effective socializing in is when a dog is a young puppy; but there is so much more to do after that.  With all the re-homing of dogs these days; there is a great need for rehabilitation socializing.  That means socializing in the later years of a dogs life.  Most dogs can indeed be helped by later socializing; but there will be those who have led such a shelter life that the improvement is minimal.

We were recently away on vacation; which means that Luke and Elsa spent a week at home.  As soon as I got home and had a good nights rest we were out in the world again.  For Luke it was simply to offer an outing; but for Elsa it is more important as far as socializing.  Sure she is more than social now at two years of age; she's had a great deal of life offered, to experience; but she can always use more.  In fact I took Elsa through the car wash yesterday.  She and I were out for a special birthday girl walk in the afternoon and I considered waiting until later to get the car washed, but then opted to take her in.  She has been in the car wash before with Luke but this was all by herself and a good experience.  She stressed a bit but not nearly as much as I would have; not knowing what the heck a car wash was.  I tossed treats into the back of the xterra as we went through so she learned that this monster thing was actually pretty great.

No matter how many times you go out; there is always something new to experience.  Don't handicap your dog by limiting life exposure.  Get out there.