Hi! I’m Pickle, a 9-month-old male Pit Bull Terrier ID# A063973! They say that the first few months of a puppy’s life is a golden window of time for them to learn how to be a happy camper. As the months go on in residence at the shelter, my socialization seems to be fleeting.
While I’m thriving with the staff at the shelter, I’m still wary of the world beyond them. I can’t seem to help feeling apprehensive on walks, and no matter the value of the treat, introductions to new people feels threatening. Alas, all I want to do is run and hide.
But there’s plenty of promise here! Take it slow and you’ll find I’m gentle and kind. With a good “sit,” “down,” and “come,” I’m even belly up for gentle rubs. With the 4-legged persuasion I truly shine! Tail wagging, bottom wiggling, and gleefully bowing, I’m all about chase, rolls, bounce, and non-stop romps with all dogs, big and small!
Despite my start, with patience, socialization, training, and spending time to show me that the world is full of fun and love, when you adopt me, you just might find the happiest friend in me!
The Santa Monica Animal Shelter is located at 1640 9th Street in Santa Monica. Walk-in adoptions are accommodated, but appointments are preferred and can be made by calling (310) 458-8595, Tuesday through Saturday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. For a full list of their adoptables, and more information about the shelter and animal control, visit santamonica.gov, and go to Animal Services.
GETTING STARTED ON SOCIALIZATION FOR DOGS
From puppies to adults, socialization is an integral part of their development, and shapes how they view and feel about the world. Exposing your dog to a wide variety of stimuli and experiences in a positive way through a consistent systematic approach enables them to learn how to remain well-adjusted in their everyday lives. Insufficient socialization can lead to anxiety and aggression disorders.
The critical window of time to socialize puppies is within their first 16 weeks of age. While early socialization is optimal and progress can be inconsistent for adult dogs due to their history and needs, even the most basic socialization at any age can help dogs flourish, and aid in modifying problem behaviors.
To get started, be specific about what you will expose your dog to so that you recognize each unique opportunity for their socialization. This includes and is not limited to people of all ages, sizes, genders, the cadence of their voices, and their garments. Other species, big and small. Encounters on walks. Being in all types of weather, in the light of day and at nights. Walking on different surfaces. What they smell and hear in and outside your home. Being touched, and handled. Wearing dog walking equipment, and being attached to a leash. Going to public places, events, dog parks, the veterinarian, groomer, dog training classes, and car rides.
Keep it positive to create the association that what they are being exposed to is rewarding, and conditioning them that they have nothing to fear. Use high value rewards that are specific to what motivates your dog, and offer lavish praise. Pair socialization with their desirable events like mealtime, playtime, and walks.
Get family and friends involved! This encourages your dog to develop their own relationships and learn no matter who they are with!
Set your dog up to succeed by taking it slow. Puppies are easily overwhelmed and get tired quickly. Start at home where your dog feels safe, and you can control the environment. Pick a stimulus that may be easier for them. Keep it short, and the intensity mild. When they become more confident and comfortable, gradually build up to longer periods of time, higher levels of distractions, and in different environments in the public.
Be mindful of when your dog is telling you to back-off or stop! Look for nuanced behavior like stiff body language, closed mouth, head bowing, yawning, licking lips, change in eyes, ears, brow, and tail. To more overt signals like hyper-salivation, panting, shedding, wet paws, pacing, whining, barking, and lethargy. Reevaluate the intensity of the exposure, the value of their rewards, and try again another day. If they struggled from start to finish, determine whether they are ready for that experience, and if it should be avoided.
Have patience and give it time! Socialization is a process. Because dogs will have new and different experiences throughout their lives, socialization will continue over the course of their lifetime. If your dog’s disposition and temperament has demands that make socialization difficult, consider consulting with a qualified dog behavior professional.
Pet of the Week is provided by Carmen Molinari. A longtime volunteer at the Santa Monica Animal Shelter and founder and CEO of Love At First Sit®, a pet care and dog behavior & training company in Santa Monica. Learn more at loveatfirstsit.net and Instagram.com/loveatfirstsit.