Dogs Don’t Generalize
It is critical to understand that dogs are not capable of generalized learning. Each new person or dog or object they encounter is a completely new experience. So, to properly socialize a new rescue dog you must expose her to a broad range of social experiences. A quiet teenager is much different for a dog than an exuberant infant or an active toddler, or an energetic five or six-year old child. If you are lucky enough to find and rescue a puppy, make sure you expose that pup to every type, size, and shape of child and adult that you possibly can. A young puppy is much easier to socialize than an adult dog. Even things like height, facial hair, apparel, (hats, sunglasses, different types of shoes, etc.) will be unique, and potentially fraught with anxiety for your new family member. Take the time you need to safely expose the dog or pup to all of these novelties.
What if you inherit an older rescue dog with an impoverished history of socializing or whose social experiences are simply unknown to you? Or, what if your trusted companion that you’ve had for many years has suddenly displayed some signs of discomfort, such as, panting more around children, eliciting low growls, snarling or even baring his teeth at certain circumstances? It’s time to step back and do some remedial socializing. Time to slow things down and go through the proper steps discussed earlier, with each new person or circumstance.
So far we've discussed how to properly introduce your rescue dog to the family members in the household, as well as other humans who may visit. We have also discussed how important it is to have a broad range of exposure, to help dogs generalize. Be sure to come back next week as we begin the process of introducing furry friends.