Who’d a thunk it. Dog play and dog socialization are not the same thing– and the difference can result in a well-adjusted dog or one that isn’t. It’s not how you were bred; it’s how you were raised that matters.
Dog play is wild abandon fun, no holds barred, with other fellow pups. Potentially unwanted behavior goes unchecked by the dogs’ humans. Dog socialization, in contrast, is playtime, but supervised. For a dog to be well socialized, a dog’s teacher must understand how to do it properly. Dima Yeremenko, London dog trainer and behaviorist, discusses the topic in depth in his book Dima’s Dog School (also co-authored by our mom):
“You must take an active role in your dog’s socialization. You’re making a mistake if you think you can just throw him into a group of dogs and he’ll learn everything he needs to in order to behave acceptably. It doesn’t take long for a puppy to realize that if he’s a little faster, a little cheekier, a little nosier than the other puppies in his training classes, he’ll win more treats, toys and praise. Similarly, it doesn’t take long for timid and shy pups to learn to seek protection and relish the comfort and safety from bullying by other dogs. This experience quickly gets reinforced very strongly in a puppy’s mind because it is getting him what he wants. A strong pup learns to dominate by trial and error. This can begin as early as when he is suckling. He will nudge his weaker siblings out of the way, winning first dibs at mealtime.”
Humans, I hate to tell you, can only make things worse; they reinforce competitive behavior in particular because they think it’s good or just plain fun. Humans, says Dima, will praise such behavior and praise the dog for it. “’Look at Benjamin. He gets the ball every time! Well done, Benny!’ But this behavior, left unchecked, can produce much more negative behavior as the dog ages, including possessiveness, excessive competitiveness, growling, biting and barking.”
So, how does one properly socialize/re-socialize a puppy/dog if you aren’t a dog trainer? The best way is to join a class that is monitored by a professional. This way, both you and your human can learn together in a controlled environment what’s right from wrong. Then, you will both learn how to play – and play right – by the rules.
Remember, dogs are people, too!
Your faithful Cavaliers,
Happy & Lady Randolph