Chuck is so handsome. When he rolls over and offers his tummy for rubbing, it’s an invitation that’s impossible to resist. A 3-year-old, 43 lb. Shar-Pei Mix, he enjoys going on walks and runs, playing around the yard and interacting with his human friends. While active, he also enjoys relaxing in the home and — this can’t be said enough — getting belly rubs; Paws4You.org.
“My fur is beautiful and soft — and paired with my love for belly rubs, I’m every dog-lover’s dream.”
Many dogs who were acquired during the beginning of the pandemic are now adolescent dogs or slightly over a year old. Working with under-socialized, fearful and nervous dogs is nothing new to professional dog trainers like myself, yet seeing this many come through our doors at the same time is. If you added a puppy to your family during the pandemic, here’s what you need to understand about how stay-at-home orders affected their development. Dogs are social creatures. They need social interactions with a lot of people, dogs, other species, and exposure to novel stimuli to develop properly. All this has to happen prior to 16 weeks of age and continue through adolescence for dogs to develop into confident, fear-free adults. Things that dogs were not regularly exposed to during the critical early socialization window become triggers for fear responses like hysterically barking, lunging, growling, cowering and pulling away when on leash. If you’re wondering how many people a dog must meet in order to be confident around people, the answer is in the hundreds! Although dogs can learn to cope with their fears better through behavior modification training, there is no turning back the clock on early socialization. It has to be slow, repeated exposure combined with a motivator like food, toys and praise, that can help a dog make new associations. It’s critical your dog participate in a controlled group class setting with an experienced trainer now. Slow, positive exposure can definitely help lessen the impact of under-socialization, but it’s important you realize that in some dogs there is no “fixing it.” A harsh reality, but one we all need to hear. Don’t delay another day in finding a professional who can help you and your dog work through it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hoult is the owner of Applause Your Paws, South Florida’s largest privately owned pet dog training company. Want to ask Dee a question about your dog? Email [email protected] or send a DM on Instagram @ApplauseYourPaws. To find a Certified Dog Trainer, visit CCPDT.org or IAABC.org for Certified Behavior Consultants.