I had a completely different blog planned for this month. However, this subject just keeps coming back in different forms so I just felt this burning urge to write on the subject again.
As we entered lockdown many of us became used to the restrictions of life and that included our dogs too. Our focused changed when we were out with our dogs for our daily exercise and we became mindful and respectful of other dogs and owners. Interestingly during this time puppies have been calmer, more owner focuses and thrived at the basic training. However, as lockdown measures eased so did our restrictions around our dogs, and we started to slip back into old routines when walking our dogs.
This week, I asked a simple question in the dog training classes:
“What is more important socialising your dog or having your dog’s focus”? I can honestly say it brought up some great discussions, it got the owner’s thinking, questioning their handling skills and more importantly questioning what was really more important. The question itself is not as simple as you think, however it can be the difference between controlling your dog when it is off lead or having an uncontrollable dog that could be a danger to other dogs and the general public.
There is really no in-between with the question, there is a lot of common sense attached to it and there is lots of fors and against. But when it comes to it, the basic answer is you need to have your dog’s focus on you, the owner. If you do not have your dog’s focus then its focus is going to be the fun it has with other dogs and therefore its desire to interact with them, whether the dog likes it or not rather than listening to the owner.
You can do all the dog training classes possible, but if you have not got your dog’s focus then you have no control over any situation they go into. There is a huge increase in dog’s injuring other dogs, owners and the general public, not through bites, but by knocking people, children, other dogs over.
And – it is not ok to shout, “it’s ok, my dog is friendly!”.
There have been many books written on the subject of training, however the fundamental basics of relationship building, and focus seems to take a back seat when socialisation is mentioned.
Think about why you socialise – some owners think playing with other dogs on a daily basis will tire their dogs out so that they only have to take the dog to field or park, however they then say they have no control over their dogs when there is another dog around.
Some owners think that to socialise your puppy or dog will certainly keep it social with all dogs and puppies for the future. This simplistic approach is fraught with problems, the owner will never find all the breeds and crossbreeds of dogs for their puppy or dog to socialise with. What happens when a new dog comes on the scene, how will their dog cope if it has not met it before. All dogs have their own experience of the world, environment, life factors, etc so it would again be impossible for the dog to be exposed to all this and more.
Has our perception of the dog world changed so much that we are focusing socialising rather than building that relationship with our dog, that it is calmer, stable and joy to take our and walk.
Dogs really have not changed that much, but our social idea has changed and what we expect of our dogs is rather caught up in our idealistic approach of what we have been constantly told and that is to socialise our dogs, it not working, so we should, therefore, look to what we can do and that is building the bond and focus through some positive reinforcement training.
One last point – enjoy training and being with your dog, after all they did not have the choice, we did.