17th April 2019
Life is a challenge for dogs, humans and all other species
How and what we teach our dogs can leave lasting impressions. We know that dogs learn by association, but the power of those associations are often underestimated. The primary aim for any dog, human or other mammal is safety and many of the social associations that are formed, revolve around individual safety. The environment plays a large part in the shaping of those associative links. We cannot wrap our dogs in cotton wool and forever shield them from what’s in the big wide world out there, but we can take a systematic approach in bringing them up or in introducing a dog to a completely new routine and living environment.
Social skills are exactly that, skills, and it takes time to develop them and a building of confidence to be able to use them. That applies to any dog of any age when being introduced to a new routine or life.Max Muir
A common myth about confidence is that treats given in an environment where the dog may be unsure help to create a positive association. That’s not entirely true. It takes good observation skills to note a dog that is under-confident, concerned or over cautious about a life event or situation. When fear levels start to rise, the giving of treats can be detrimental to what it is that you are trying to achieve. There
A common scenario is when a dog is socially fearful or apprehensive in the presence of unfamiliar dogs that we train a ‘Look at me’ behaviour rather than focus on the dog. As other dogs are closer and
Here are 5 top tips I offer to consider when socialising and raising your dog for the first year of life.
- Never force social interactions – give them the choice to help allow socially acceptable behaviour to develop.
Choiceis most important in developing confidence and coping skills and directly allows them to use their deep-rooted inclination to ‘be safe.’ This is the same with rescued and adult dogs, establish and develop trust before you start making their choices for them.
- Don’t force dogs to do what they don’t want to do, dogs, like kids, need to grow up. I’m referring to strict obedience in places where your dog shows natural concern for its well-being. Training does not teach a dog to cope, only to do what it is told to do. There’s a difference.
- Develop a good observational awareness and be conscious about the dog you have, what
itslikes, dislikes and preferences are. Give lots of outlets to develop their activity loves and strengths. That’s a super confidence booster for them.
- Never punish curiosity. If your dog shows an interest in something you may find repelling, you may well be stoking further valued interests in something you are trying so hard to stop. Often your dog will show interest in something, satisfy its curiosity and then move on.
- Challenge the quality of mental stimulation you give your dog. Exploring new things in the environment wires the brain and builds more brain cells. Cells are built by stimulation through the senses. Help your dog learn new things, not the same things
again and againsuch the same old toys and challenges. If your dog is not playing with toys or puzzles any more it’s a clear message that you need to get more creative.
A dog with safety in mind prefers to absorb an environment through choice rather than be forced into it. Dogs are bred to be social but that can be damaged by traumatic experiences they feel are out of their control. Sometimes with the right
If a child is exposed to all possible things they will meet in life, in small portions so they can cope and develop until the age of 12 years old. They are likely to handle most of life’s challenges from that point onwards. Children have individual levels of resilience and coping with stress. They also have individual ways of showing that the demands on them outweigh their ability to cope, some may withdraw, become very emotional, or angry in a situation. Building resilience needs a supportive relationship, exposure to the right environment, time, patience and care, teaching them that it is okay to display their emotions as opposed to shutting them down, and an environment that challenges and builds their frustrations and confidence levels to cope with solving problems.
Often the failure to change a behaviour lies in the approach to deal with it. Learning to cope with life is different to training. Training is useful and has its place once certain criteria have been met but first a dog needs to learn how to cope, it needs the time to develop and grow. If a dog is emotionally unstable then it needs to learn coping skills, not training per se. Any good training or development programme will have that in mind, but be aware that once safety has been jeapordised, it can be a long road ahead, stressed dogs have bad memories and don’t learn well. The goal is to get stress levels down and start the road to recovery, a little at a time, to take on life’s challenges again.