The true meaning of socializing your dog
From Lucky Dog University Wiki
Some people believe that “socializing dogs/pups” is about introducing them to other dogs. Some people believe “socializing” is about “getting them used to things”. Both are true in a sense, but if you expose your dog/pup and expect them to accept/get used to or tolerate our human world, you may find that your intentions could backfire on you. A great example of this is taking a shy or fearful dog to an “off leash park” and expecting that dog to “get used to it”, some dogs may adapt and some may get even more fearful or aggressive.
So what is the true meaning of socializing your canine friend? This is basically the definition that I came up with:
Graduated exposure to a wide variety of stimuli done in a controlled and positive manner to increase social skills and adaptability.
Adverse socialization can occur, but obviously that is not what we want. So there is a difference between the definition of what socialization IS and how socialization should occur.
How it should occur is to make that “place”, “person”, or “thing” as positive as possible, especially in the first few introductions. Stress levels should be kept at a minimum.
A few good examples are going to the vet (“places”), most dogs can tolerate the Vet about as much as we can tolerate the Dentist ;( In order to make that visit as positive as possible, I ALWAYS bring HIGH motivating treats. If you can start this conditioning process with a young pup or recently new adopted dog, you will most likely be able to condition an emotional response (CER) to where Vet now = Great Treats! This extra plus (great treats) can and will make Vet visits more tolerable. If your dog is totally freaked out about going to the Vet, start going just to drop in, get great treats and go home. The more you do that, the more you will balance the negative association with a positive association.
Another example is what your dog/pup may think about/associate with a “person”, is that person big, small, scary (?). To help your dog/pup deal with having to live in a human society … have people toss or feed your dog great treats. Over a period of time, your dog/pup will see people as “gift givers” or “cookie people”. How scared would dogs be of that?
Last example are “things”, it could be sights (hats, umbrellas, skate boards, things that blow in the wind). It could be sounds (vacuum, thunderstorms, pots/pans, fireworks, horns). It could be smells (smells of boarding facility, pet hospital, grooming shop) and yes, my answer is to feed that dog/pup great treats in the presence of these “things” to again condition pleasant associations withthem.
Why do I think that food is so often the answer??? Ray Coppinger is a professor of biology at Hampshire College,  I have had the privilege to listen to his lectures at a recent seminar. His theory of the evolution of dogs is that dogs actually adopted us. The old saying the dog is man’s best friend … well Ray believes that man is the dog’s best friend.
“Ray looked at the evolution of dogs from wolves. He saw populations of dogs living near humans, scavenging on human waste, but without any direct human assistance – and thriving. He could even account for different races and natural breeds of dogs evolving without human interference. These village dogs have a commercial relationship with humans. They gain benefit from humans but they don’t cost the humans anything. Their foraging, reproductive, and hazard avoidance behaviors are similar to those of wild species, adapting them to survive in a niche. The niche in this case was inadvertently created by him as who begun to live in permanent settlements which allowed for the accumulation of waste food.”
The moral of this article is to feed high motivating treats when introducing our dogs to our human society simply because dogs love food especially great treats, they’re scavengers it’s hard-wired for them to know that food is the main source of survival. Studies have already shown that dogs learn from food rewards, they associate it with pleasure, security, and comfort I always say the quickest way to your dogs mind is through his belly, whatever behavior you treat reward, is a behavior your dog will repeat. Expose them to our world and feed them.