Dog Training Tips: Why “Sit” Can Wait
Dog Training Tips: Why “Sit” Can Wait: Socialization VS. Training Revisited
Socialization is a recurring theme in many of our blogs. We have discussed socialization for adult dogs, how to condition your puppy for handling, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s position statement, and a medical professional’s view on puppy socialization. The first blog I wrote was focused on the importance of socializing a puppy vs. training them; I believe it is time to revisit this topic again.
My original blog used the experience I gained from raising a fear aggressive dog and realizing that early socialization could have prevented many of his problems. That blog was a warning about the potential for fear and aggression if early socialization is not executed properly with a puppy. Preventing problems is one reason to consider the importance of socialization over dog training early in a puppy’s life, but there is also another perspective to consider.
I recently watched a viral YouTube video that discusses this perspective in human children. In this video the 13 year-old Logan discusses his answer to the typical question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. Logan answers that he wants to be, “happy and healthy,” when he grows up, and he goes on to discuss how “hackschooling” is helping him to achieve that. This popular TEDx Talk depicts the approach we take with puppies.
The children who are going through hackschooling are learning how to be happy and healthy; similarly, teaching a puppy how to cope with life is what early socialization is all about. Unfortunately, most owners still believe that obedience training is what puppies and dogs need; teaching a puppy “sit” and “down” won’t help them cope with life any more than teaching a child algebra shows him how to be happy. Instead of focusing on puppy training, we should teach puppies how to be happy by showing them the world early on, including enriched environments both inside and outside the home.
Socialization is absolutely a lifelong endeavor for dogs, but we stress the importance of it early due to a short window when puppies are most impressionable. Puppyhood only lasts until 4.5 months, after that is the young adolescent dog phase. Trying to socialize during the young dog phase is like playing catch up and teaching basic manners then, will waste precious time. What is significant about the brief puppy period is that breeders are responsible for doing most of the work (see this video for an idea of what great breeders do).
Teaching puppies how to be happy should be the priority from the moment they are born. Training behaviors can happen anytime, but if they are too scared of the world “down” and “stay” won’t matter. The bottom line is, “sit” can wait, but socialization and enrichment can’t.
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