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Fur Times | October 16, 2018

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Socialization & Habituation In Dogs

Socialization & Habituation In Dogs
Yuruani Olguin

What is socialization?

Socialization can be described as the process whereby an animal learns how to recognize and interact with its own species, other species such as cats and people. This interaction helps each learn the body language and communication skills of each other.

What is habituation?

Habituation can be described as the process whereby an animal becomes accustomed and desensitized to environmental factors so it learns to ignore them. This includes visual stimuli and sounds such as thunder, fireworks, and doorbells.

Sometimes the term socialization is used to encompass both the descriptions above.

Why do I need to ensure my dog gets sufficient socialization & habituation?

Socialization and habituation are essential to ensure that dogs become well- balanced companion animals. It helps them to deal with new situations they may encounter. It also helps them deal with the range of people and experiences within their environment by preventing future problems of nervousness or aggression.

How do I ensure my dog gets sufficient socialization & habituation?

Once you own a puppy, you should implement your own program, exposing your dog to as wide a range of experiences and positive encounters as possible. This exposure should start immediately and become diverse as soon as the puppy is fully vaccinated. It should continue ideally throughout the dog’s life but essentially up until sexual maturity.

I have an older dog, is there anything I can do for him/her?

Yes, behavior modification and re-socialization programs can be implemented, although the help of a behaviorist or experienced dog trainer may be required. Older dogs can be desensitized to unfamiliar or frightening situations gradually, but it will never replace the benefits of early socialization.

My dog had a bad experience, what should I do?

Do not try and comfort the dog or react fearfully yourself as you will confirm the need for fear to your dog. The dog may look to you for guidance, so remain confident. Your dog should be re-exposed to the situation gradually and possibly from a distance, so he becomes desensitized to it. Proximity can be increased as your dog’s confidence grows. De-sensitization tapes are available for sound related phobias and should be used very quietly at first with the volume being increased as desensitization occurs. Always praise or reward your dog for not showing fear and not reacting to the situation. If your dog reacts aggressively or fearfully in a situation, then a desensitization program should be implemented with the help of a behaviorist or trainer.

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