My young Border Collie, Hobbs, is gifted. He can sneak in a crotch sniff so quickly that I cannot even stop him. And this it still true even though I know it is coming. He will be greeting a human friend, then, with no warning and quick as lightning, he drags his nose across the off-limits body part which is, of course, just at his nose level. The person who is getting sniffed always starts to react. But the drive-by happens so rapidly that the, “Hey!” never makes it out of their mouth, and they are left wondering, “Did that really happen?” until I mutter a quick sorry.
This is a failure of socialization. I did not adequately explain to my guy that he is free to smell his friends, just not that one body part that happens to smell really, really rich and good.
I think a lot about socialization of dogs. I think there is some confusion about the meaning. Socialization has come to be equated with the word social. As a result, people think of taking their dogs to dog parks or on play dates to socialize or on walks to interact with other people.
But socialization is much bigger. It is starts with one important fact:
Dogs are a different species with different perceptions and understanding of the world. They are not little people in fur coats. Without our presence, they would live a life incredibly different from the lives we ask them to live with us.
It falls to us to teach them every aspect of how to live in our world. That is the process of socialization. It involves so much more than learning to walk nicely on the leash, potty outside, or play nicely with other dogs.
In reality, the first two years of a dog’s life, almost every interaction with our dog involves some sort of socialization. For many new dog owners, it comes as a huge surprise that dogs do not come knowing the difference between the dog toy that you let him tear up and that cushy sofa that looked like a big dog toy.
For new dog owners, it is important to understand that there are hundreds of little pieces of learning that comprise socialization, not all of which are obvious. Even for experienced dog owners to whom the process of socialization comes rather naturally, it is easy to forget to teach certain things to the new pup. After all, it has been years since the last one.
In addition to confessing that I allowed Hobbs to become an expert crotch sniffer, I will share a list of other things I failed to teach him. Perhaps you can learn from my mistakes.
Things I should have taught Hobbs (apparently):
- Do not take pot roast off the counter
- When you have the pot roast in your mouth and I shriek, drop it
- When we are going to play tug, bite the toy and not my hand
- When you bite my hand and I shriek, let go
- When I open the door, do not run over me to get out
- If you run over me to get out, come back and lick me while I get up
- Do not scream like a banshee in the car as we approach your favorite park
- Do not knock the old dog down
- Do not tease the old dog with the toy until she is exhausted
- Do not mistake the sofa for a big chew toy even if you are bored
- When you have learned to open the sliding door on your own, do not open it if the air conditioner is on.
I would love to add to this list of things we should have taught. Please share on our FB page (Our Dog Pack) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I always love to hear from you.