Socialisation Not Isolation (Part I)

While reading Bruce Fogle’s “The Dog’s Mind” earlier today, I marked a page with a sticky note, and wrote on it “isolation or socialisation”.  My partner and I hope to have a puppy of our own in the coming months (once we’ve found pet-friendly rental accommodation, got moved in, and settled down), and I spend a little time every now and again going through my mental list of what I would like to socialise him or her to, and attempting to rank them in some sort of priority.  I have this list because I see dogs, whether they’re in the street, on TV, friends dog, and they’re scared.  They’re scared of cats, or other dogs, or of men, or cars, or kids, and the list goes on…

In his book, Bruce talks about socialisation with regards to other dogs, and seems to leave out the part about socialising your puppy to lots of different people, situations and so on; but realistically the topic of socialisation covers all of this.  Two quotes I found particularly interesting from what I read today follow:

“dogs that are isolated from other dogs during this period [the socialisation period, from around four to sixteen weeks] in their lives are often hyperaggressive towards other dogs.  They haven’t learned how to inhibit this behaviour.”

“Pups that are denied play activity up to twelve weeks of age…are poorer learners, have a greater fear of people, animals, and noises, are shyer, and more antisocial.  They will avoid stimuli and are reluctant to explore.”

I feel that both of these can apply to any form of socialisation.

I have seen more than the odd one or two dog who is socially inept, this is often because the owners don’t realise what is normal interaction for dogs.  The first time they let their puppy or dog off-leash to play with others, they quickly take it home again as they think that the normal canine play styles practised by their puppy  are inappropriate.  When the owner wants to “try again” and see if the dog is better, however because the dog now is socially starved, it is even more inept in its interactions, and this time causes real problems.

Compare if you will, with ourselves.  If you were suddenly whisked off to Japan to live with a Japanese family.  You don’t speak their language, and you know very little of their culture, but they frequently take you out to see the sights of the local area, which you enjoy; the best bit about these excursions is that you often see other Westerners on your trips out.  The first time you get within speaking distance, you and the other Westerner shake hands.  Your Japanese hosts do not shake hands, they bow – bowing is polite in Japan, and so they think you are being pushy, and rude.

After you shake hands, your hosts wait for you to “be appropriate”, and bow, but when it is clear to them you aren’t going to bow, they quickly take you home.  You’re not taken on any outings for a while, but the next time you go out, you see your new friend again.  This time, you shout across the road to him, and he shouts back.  Your host family are shocked, and immediately take you home.  This continues, but each time your see your friend, you are that little bit more excited to talk to him; and each time you are taken home and do not go out with your hosts for a little while longer than the last time, and eventually your hosts either stop taking you out, or they only take you with them when they know you will not encounter anyone you will try to communicate with.

It’s a sad fact, but this is how a lot of dogs live their lives.  May others are fearful of what we would class as every-day objects, the Hoover, the washing machine or dishwasher, cars, tractors, children, men.

This post is getting rather long, so I’ll split it and post the second part in a few days.  In it, I’ll look at what sort of things I will socialise my puppy to, and explain my reasons why.

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2 thoughts on “Socialisation Not Isolation (Part I)

  1. Grrreat blog…love the analogy with an englishman in a foreign culture…I’m gonna borrow that one if you don’t mind!

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