The title comes from Stan Rawlinson’s website. He is a dog behaviourist. He is referring to anxious dogs. He is talking about socialisation which is the way to make a dog confident in the presence of people. There are two parallel socialisation processes. One is to people and the others to other dogs.
The dog can only be domesticated and an acceptable companion to people if they are confident around them. This is achieved by doing what Stan says in the title to this article and more.
Puppies should come into contact with children, adults and pensioners. Nearly all cases of aggression against people is due to a lack of proper socialisation according to Stan. It is not due to dominance-based aggression. He makes an interesting point in that he says that some breeders keep their puppies isolated until they have been vaccinated. He argues that this is a barrier to proper socialisation and that dogs should be mixing with people and other vaccinated dogs from the day that they are born.
Puppies should mix with other puppies and in doing so they learn how far they can go in terms of roughhouse playing, and they learn communication skills and body language. Adult dogs do not play like puppies which is why he argues that puppies should be allowed to play together to benefit their confidence and mental health.
He recommends puppy classes. Some classes are inadequate. It is important that the puppies interact off the lead. If puppies are not allowed to interact like this there is the possibility that they could end up being a timid adult dog and may become aggressive. Ninety-five percent of dog bites are “fear related”. And fear comes from a lack of proper socialisation and confidence around people.
Puppies should not only be exposed to people and dogs. They should be exposed to all kinds of experiences including different places while ensuring that they are safe. They need to be exposed to these events and places to acclimatise them to these situations; to make them more rounded.
Of course, inherited traits play a part (nature-nurture). Stan refers to a Jack Russell/Dachshund cross that he adopted and called Charlie. Charlie has passed but he was essentially a very well-balanced dog but suffered enormous abuse at the hands of his sadistic first owner who mercilessly injured him causing him to be fearful of people. He was incredibly traumatised and would defecate, urinate and vomit if people approached him. His brother was killed by this person.
A veterinary nurse called Helen nursed him back to physical health and Stan nursed him back to mental health. That is my reading of the situation. It took him three months to get Charlie to begin to trust people. He made a total recovery and his confidence soared. He loved and trusted people. I guess the story tells us that even in the worst cases of abuse a dog can be loved back to mental health with the right kind of socialisation and training.
Stan’s website is Doglistener.