Dear Adam: I am becoming more and more frustrated with puppy training and trying to socialize my young German Shepherd dog (7 months) to other dogs (and bitches) and he is a good natured little fella but almost every dog he meets wants to fight him.
To his credit he has responded in a totally bewildered non aggressive manner but I am getting worried that when his testicles drop he’s going to click all of a sudden and get his nasty head on.
These other dogs seem fine until they meet him. All he wants to do is play. Is it because he is big that they regard him as such a threat? Or do I live in a country which is full of psychopathic dogs as well as people? Thanks, Andy.
I believe that it is a mistake to “socialize” dogs with other dogs outside of the pack, after 8 weeks of age and before 1 1/2 years of age. Why?
Because this is how dog aggression is started. Of course, there may also be a genetic component, but when a young dog is dominated– and then submits– and the other dog (because he’s mal-tempered) does not back off… your dog has just learned that submission does not work. So he becomes afraid. And this fear, combined with testosterone, turns into aggression. And within the first year of the dog’s life, this type of experience can create a lasting effect on the dog’s interactions with other dogs in the future.
Trust me, if your dog was with the litter from 6 to 8 weeks of age, he went through the primary socialization imprint stage, and will know how to interact with other dogs later in life. No. The issue is NOT: Should I socialize my dog? The issue IS: Should I socialize my dog with OTHER dogs.
Here are three proofs:
1.) Several dogs I’ve raised, but we’ll take the last two… a GSD, and a Rottweiler (separately)… were both socialized with the litter during the 6 to 8 week imprint stage. After this imprint stage, the Rottweiler was only allowed to socialize with pack dogs. (Safe dogs owned by my family and circle of friends that I’ve know to be temperamentally safe and not overly dominant.) The German Shepherd dog was not allowed to interact with any other dogs. Period. The result: These dogs BOTH matured into well-adjusted adult dogs with absolutely no form of dog aggression. In addition, I’ve counseled hundreds of clients to do the same thing, and have experienced the same results.
2.) Professional Schutzhund trainer Tom Rose has a habit of adopting dogs (intentionally) before the 6 to 8 week imprint stage to other dogs. He DOES NOT want the dog to learn dominant and subordinate behavior. The result: These dogs grow up basically NOT having an interest in other dogs. BUT they are NOT dog aggressive. They behave much in the same way that humans who don’t care about dogs do. After a year of age, they ARE able to successfully co-exist with other dogs in a familial setting.
3.) Every single case of dog aggression that I see from clients are a result of dogs that have been “socialized” with other dogs. And very often, the owners CAN remember THAT ONE experience at the dog park when, blah, blah, blah. And surprise! A few months later, the dog starts showing dog aggression upon maturity. Of course, there may at times be an element of genetic predisposition to this, too. Best regards, Adam.