While scouring the internet late last night, I noticed a trend - and one that does our canine companions absolutely no favors. All over websites and social media, trainers and other pet professionals are urging people to take their dogs everywhere, as many places they can as puppies. The idea is that the more the puppy sees the better socialized it will be - but sadly, there is a dark side to that advice.
While socialization is of utmost importance to the proper upbringing of any puppy or dog, how that is achieved matters. Since all animals learn and are conditioned from experiences in life, repeated negative experiences can actually lead to poor socialization, irrational fear and more.
If your dog is showing fear in a place you take him to, and you just figure "he'll get used to it" there is a high possibility that the fear your pup shows each time they go to the scary place will grow without proper conditioning to create a positive experience. Repeated negative experiences lead to all manner of emotional and eventually behavioral issues in dogs. So, while it is easy for someone to preach to take your dog to places, it is just not as simple as that. Building positive associations takes time, but the reward is a well-balanced dog that enjoys outings and does not display troubling behavior when exposed to different things.
The best approach is to start young and plan your outings. Take a small trip to a hardware store during a non-busy time and reward your puppy frequently. If your pup refuses food, they are over threshold, and you may need to even start smaller (perhaps just a car ride or getting out in the parking lot and getting back into the car) and build up to these things.
Always make sure you are taking them to places that are not insanely busy to start. A puppy's first outing to a busy Pet Expo or a crowded outdoor sitting area at local brewery would be completely overwhelming and may create a negative connection in the dog's mind. Reward your pup heavily with treats and praise throughout the process of introducing them to unfamiliar places or people.
If you are concerned about proper socializing and want to make sure that you are addressing things appropriately, contact a professional to help. Here at UpSwing Total Pet Care, we are always willing to help, even virtually, so that your dog can be the best version of themselves!