Puppy Socialization: Are You Asking Too Much Of Your Dog?

Puppy Socialization: Are You Asking Too Much Of Your Dog, Or Perhaps Too Little? You simply cannot expose a puppy to too many new things – people, places, and other animals. (Common-sense, applying here.) And yet this is one area where puppy owners undo the good work of many reputable breeders. When a puppy is not continually exposed to new things, her social development stops – and in many cases regresses.

The goal is a confident, outgoing dog, not a shy or aggressive one. The way to accomplish this is through socializing. We ask a lot from our dogs, a lot more than their wild cousins need for survival. Wild dogs and wolves need to learn to live in harmony with others of their pack and as important members of their ecosystem. They know their own family, and they don’t have to get along with members of other packs.

No one ever asks them to live in peace with other predators, such as mountain lions, and the only relationship they have with prey animals is when one of them becomes dinner. Wild dogs and wolves know the seasons and the smells of their environment and know that it’s prudent to run when anything unfamiliar turns up. Contrast that picture to what domesticated dogs are expected to endure with good grace.

Born of a dog mother and raised among dog siblings, we ask our dogs to form a family relationship with members of another species. We ask them to live peaceably in this strange family, and we expect them to be docile with humans who are outside their pack. We ask, too, that they remain able to get along well with others of their own kind, both in the family and at such events as dog shows. We ask, further, that they abide the presence of a competing predator – the cat – and ignore the presence of what any wolf knows is good eating, although we call them pets: rabbits, birds, and other smaller animals. Although a wild dog or wolf never gets too far from his home turf – except in cases of human interference – we ask that our dogs be as mobile as we are.

We take them when we walk to the store, we put them in our cars when we go on vacation, we place them on airplanes when we move across country. Dogs are genetically predisposed to have more potential to become part of human society than wolves or coyotes, and some breeds within the family of domesticated dogs find doing so easier still. Compare the easy companion ability of a good golden retriever with the suspicious nature of breeds developed to protect livestock, for example.

So, part of it’s genetics, but the other part is you. Get your puppy out! (Just be sure you supervise him and do not allow him to go near feces or trash). Your local veterinarian should be consulted with first, as there are some areas that may be receiving excessive parvo outbreaks.