Early Socialization And Ongoing Training Are More Significant Than Dog Size When it Comes to Child Aggression
I always enjoy your column. I was somewhat surprised to read that dogs need to be socialization to children. Perhaps I have largely been around dogs that were socialized at an early age to kids, but most of my experience has been that dogs, especially large breeds, seem to naturally like kids. Is it a breed issue? I have noted that some smaller dogs don’t seem to like them.
There is a nature vs nurture element. Some breeds of dogs have been selectively bred for greater tolerance of human’s “mishandling” and generally speaking those are some of the non-”combat” oriented larger breeds but I think it’s tough to find breeders that pay sufficient attention to such things anymore and as a lot of people that own what used to be considered near bomb proof breeds like Golden Retrievers for instance – I wouldn’t depend on it.
Even with good breeding, all dogs, large and small will become exponentially more accepting and tolerant of children and tons of other things if breeders and dog owners make a concerted effort to expose puppies before the 12 weeks of age mark to a cornucopia of children of all ages, skateboards, loud sounds, wheel chairs etc. Essentially every sound, sight, and smell you can access and safely expose the dog to the better.
The veterinarian community is finally acknowledging that careful attention to socializing saves as many if not more lives then might be lost when they used to tell people to restrict puppies access to the real world until all the puppy inoculations are complete. Fortunately proper socialization can occur without compromising a puppy’s physical health. Unfortunately the veterinarian community is not yet sufficiently emphasizing to the puppy owners just how important socializing is.
It’s not entirely their fault. For something as critical to life as socialization is, it is not adequately covered in their education and the information they are getting is often coming from equally under informed dog trainers that are selling them on the idea them that puppy-socialization classes equates to proper socialization. This is rarely the case. The fact is that no puppy socialization class can accomplish the task and many do more harm then good. That is unless the puppy socialization class is daily and incorporates multiple exposures to the real world sounds, sights and smells.
The fact is that a dog’s best chance for a great bombproof temperament is based on how and what the dog owner and hopefully the breeder before them exposed the dog to before 12 weeks of age. The beauty is that it is bizarrely simple to do. It’s not based on handling and training ability. It’s just labor – a labor of love I might add. It is in my opinion the single greatest gift a breeder and/or a dog owner can give a dog.
Fearful dogs, all too often lead restricted or shortened lives due to a completely preventable temperament issue. No pill, no dog trainer is going to be able to fix a bad temperament. They may be able to dampen the behavior but proper socialization is the key to prevention and producing a happy dog rather than just a more tolerant dog. I have an ebook called “Socialize Your Puppy for Everything” that any breeder, veterinarian or dog owner can use to learn what they need to do to produce confident dogs. You can find it in the store section of my website.