Instinctively, as humans, we know the importance of socialization for the sake of maintaining our own sanity. If we've been cooped up in the house for too long, we feel the need to get out in the world. Actually, even after going to work or school for 8 hours a day, we still feel the need to do something more in the evenings and on the weekends. We know this to also be the case with children. That's why we sign them up for sports, extra-curricular activities and arrange play dates.

Well, we're not the only ones that experience cabin fever. Our dogs do too. As a dog trainer, I see this problem far too often. Dogs that are not properly socialized can get into trouble.

We are a community-based society and our dogs are pack animals. Think about it. How many of the following have you attended in the last month?

  •     Gathering with friends
  •     School functions
  •     Family gatherings
  •     Work events (after hours)
  •     Church functions
  •     Sporting games

If I had to guess, I'd bet the number's pretty high. Now ask yourself if you've taken your dog out in the world relatively the same amount of time. Remember, they have not spent 40 hours at work or school and they can't surf the net to keep themselves occupied.

How many times in the last month has your dog been:

  •     On walks or hikes
  •     To the park
  •     To dog training class
  •     To play with other dogs you know and trust

If the answer is "zero" or "not as often as I should have," that might explain why your dog is jumping, barking, digging, etc. Their version of surfing the net is chewing up your garden. Their idea of going to work is barking at everything that goes by. They have cabin fever.  We all remember the movie The Shining, don't we? Jack Nicholson was trying to kill his family because he'd been locked in the mountains too long. Axe through the door… digging up tomato plants in the backyard…see the resemblance? 

And for puppies, it's even more important. The first few months is a critical window for socialization as the neuro-networks in their brains are being developed which, simply put, means they're learning how to perceive and respond to the world around them. It's never too late to make improvements, but you never get those first few months back. It's also a great way for them to spend some of that puppy energy and learn to play with other dogs.

So get your dog out in the world. There are a variety of things you can do. Take them on a walk or to the park. If you're feeling up for some organized fun, sign up for my Agility class. If you'd like to sharpen their obedience skills, drop in on my Drop-In class once in a while. If you're fortunate enough to be starting with a pup, take my Puppy Socialization class. At the very least, take them on a daily walk or run. 

Your dogs and tomato plants will thank you for it. 

-Chad Culp, Certified Dog Trainer and Canine Behavior Consultant

© Thriving Canine 2013

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