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Is Your Dog a Type-A?
The Incredible Social Repertoire of the Twenty-First Century Pet
By Sue Rauch
We all want an even tempered, well adjusted, reliable family pet, and most of us know that the well trod path to a healthy dog’s mental and emotional development is socialization. It’s a fact that you simply cannot expose a puppy to too many new things – sights, sounds, people, places, and other animals. When a puppy lacks stimulation and exposure to new things, like a child, her social development stops and sometimes regresses. When we raise a pup we are hoping for a confident, outgoing dog, rather that a shy or aggressive one, and the way to accomplish this is with small steps; with incrementally more challenging social interactions every day. But do we ever stop to think about what that means from the dog’s point of view?
Domesticated dogs today must learn to handle so much more that their wild ancestors ever needed for survival. Wild dogs and wolves learned socialization… how to live in harmony, to know their place in the pack. But no one ever required them to make peace with other predators such as bears and mountain lions. The only relationship they ever had with prey animals was when one of them became dinner.
Contrast that natural scenario with our modern expectations for our resident canine best friends and we might get a glimpse of the learning curve our pets face before we ever begin to officially train them in obedience or agility or herding or anything else. Born and raised in a canine pack, we ask our dogs to transfer their innate family allegiances to another species... us.
We require that they not only live peaceably in this new family, but that they remain docile with other humans outside of their pack. We ask that they maintain civil if not cordial relations with others of their own kind wherever they are encountered… in the park, at the dog show, the agility trials, in the neighbor’s backyard. We also ask that they tolerate and defer to the presence of a competing predator - the cat, and ignore the gastronomic lure of myriad available foods masquerading as pets around the house: hamsters, rabbits, gerbils, and birds.
A wild dog or wolf never gets too far from his home turf, except in cases of human interference, but we create schedules for our dogs as mobile and jam packed as our own. They go to the groomer and the vet, the pet emporium and the boarding kennels. Many of them participate in dog shows and dog sporting events; they thrill us on the Agility course, entertain us in canine competitions of Frisbee prowess and Flyball skills.
They often accompany us to the post office, the grocery store and the dry cleaners where they must wait patiently outside until we are done. We take them to family reunions and picnics, hotels, motels, camping trips (possibly their favorite adventure) and pretty much anywhere else our lives take us. We put them in our cars and visit relatives three states away, we crate them up and transport them thousands of miles by plane when we go on vacation, we pack them up with the rest of our belongings and relocate them along with the rest of the family, often repeatedly through their lives.
Some dogs are more genetically predisposed to blending into human society than others. Some are natural companions, like a beloved golden retriever; some maintain wary instincts like collies and sheepherders, bred to protect livestock. But we must say that genetics is only part of the story. The other part is what happens when you make the puppy part of your family. We have coined the term information overload to describe our own experience of being overwhelmed by the crazy world we have created. Imagine the overload on your dog... and then cut him some slack.
About the Author: Sue Rauch is a freelance writer who runs www.FitDogHome.com a dog sports equipment web site for Agility and Flyball dogs, and their people.
Contact Sue at firstname.lastname@example.org