The phrase on everyone’s lips right now is ‘social distancing’ – we know what it means for us, but what does it mean for your dog?
I know there are a lot of people who are concerned about the lack of ‘socialisation’ their dog will get, not being able to meet up with fellow dog walkers to let their dogs run together and play together, and finding many places quieter than usual. The worry is that your dog will fall out of the habit of socialising well with other dogs.
The thing is, ‘socialisation’ doesn’t mean ‘socialising’ – it’s a completely different term, and it’s so much more than just letting dogs greet, play and run together.
I have often been out and seen dogs hanging out in a group of other dogs that simply don’t want to be there. The owner wants to socialise with other owners, and they want their dog to have ‘doggy friends’ but really, the dog would far rather go for a walk with his owner and not have to deal with all these excitable, bouncing lunatics that he’s supposed to call friends!
I also see dogs that can’t walk by another dog without getting their furry knickers in a twist because they want to greet the other dog and can’t understand why they’re not allowed – as a puppy, during that all important ‘socialisation period’ they got to meet all other dogs, and now don’t know how to deal with the frustration when they can’t do that.
Socialisation is about preparing your dog for various situations in life – including things that involve people and other dogs, but also lots of other things such as traffic, various noises, street structures, livestock etc. and the situations surrounding these may involve having to get close to them, or not being able to get close to them. They may involve those things making a lot of noise, or moving past them at speed.
There are a lot of dogs I see that could benefit from this period of social distancing that we have had forced upon us. For example:
- Fewer people out and about means dogs that are frightened of people have less to deal with, remain under threshold and will find it easier to learn that people aren’t scary
- Fewer dogs around means dogs with reactivity towards other dogs – be it aggression or excitability – can be worked with more easily as less of the stimuli around to overwhelm them
- Keeping distance from other dogs and people means that dogs will have the chance to practice not always greeting others
- Less traffic on the roads will make it easier for dogs who react to traffic to go for walks without getting worked up and it’s the perfect time to work on it
In addition to the above, dogs who experience Separation Anxiety will benefit if owners are working from home or are at home off work as they will not be left to get distressed and it’s the ideal time for owners to work on this with their dogs. You cannot fix separation anxiety whilst your dog is constantly being left to experience distress.
So whilst there’s a lot of worry surrounding our current situation, this is one thing that I can reassure you of – whether your dog loves socialising, or he doesn’t, spending some time practicing social distancing will not hurt him! It may even be beneficial.
If you are experiencing any problems that you think now would be a good time to work on, I’m still providing remote support and consultations by video/phone calls.