Virtually all breeders, trainers, and dog lovers agree that the most important factor in having a well-balanced, calm dog or puppy is providing proper socialization experiences from the earliest possible age. These socialization experiences should be done daily, especially with more aggressive or timid breeds to prevent natural tendencies toward these behaviors from setting in.
In the wild, adult dogs and their brothers and sisters socialize a puppy. Puppies learn that when they bite too hard, they bite back, or growl at adult dogs. When the pup is separated from the mother and brothers and sisters prior to this socialization, it is up to the humans to complete this training. When the puppy bites or chews and is hurtful, the adult should respond in a way that shows displeasure at the puppy’s actions. This usually involves a faster, louder “Ouch” or “Don’t bite” followed by ignoring the puppy for a few minutes. Usually this is all that is required. If the dog is slapped or whipped when he bites, he may actually become more aggressive as he tries to tell you that he is being hurt. If your pup doesn’t respond to “Ouch” or “Stop,” try substituting a chew toy to teach him what he should bite on. They should be praised for chewing on the toy and not biting a person.
Some breeds will nip or lean naturally. This is particularly true of herding dogs such as border collies, Australian sheepdogs, corgi breeds, and sheepdogs of all varieties. A spray bottle filled with water is often all that is needed to teach these highly intelligent breeds to pack animals, not humans. Puppies and dogs that are working breeds need to be mentally challenged and given commands and work to keep them busy.
A puppy should be introduced to as many new types of animals, situations, and environments as possible. This means that puppies should have the opportunity to ride in the car, walk in the park, and be around lots of other people, dogs, and other animals. The more puppies experience the world in a positive way, the less likely they are to become aggressive, shy or fearful as adult dogs.
Some breeds are more prone to overly aggressive or shy behavior. These breeds should have a particular emphasis on socialization to prevent problems from arising as the dog ages and becomes more aggressive or fearful. Dogs that are not properly socialized respond to new situations by trying to flee or fight, which are usually very undesirable responses.
Socialization can happen naturally if you take your puppy to the park or to a puppy obedience class. It is very important that you monitor the puppy’s response and offer support, encouragement, or praise when the puppy interacts with other dogs in a desirable way. Avoid situations where the puppy is startled or afraid of other animals, as this can cause an aggressive response.
By keeping socialization positive and ongoing, it’s relatively simple to keep your dog well-behaved around other animals and people. If you’re having trouble socializing your dog, consider taking an obedience class and getting help from a professional trainer.