Animal Psychology

Broad socialization – the basis for professional handling


Oleksandra BEREHOVENKO, the Head of the vocational school for social cynology, handling, animal psychology and raising dog owners “Harmonic Dog”




What do you think the dog's success in the ring depends on most?


Someone puts inborn anatomy in the first place, others emphasize the work of the handler.


And very rarely the conversation begins with the dog's mood, its self-confidence, the interest and pleasure from the rings – that, what should be our main and top priority.


I propose talking about the main condition, without which neither good anatomy nor level of the handler will be able to provide the desired result in the ring.


We are going to discuss the broad socialization – the obligatory basis on which the victories on dog shows, and the daily life of a pet are built.


Primary Adaptation


Only a highly social, well-educated, self-confident dog will demonstrate the best aspects of its anatomy, regardless of location or environment.


And vice versa: an anatomically perfect dog, at dog shows or in other unusual situations, can turn into a bent arc, frightened "shrimp" that avoids communication, and even ready to turn to aggressive self-defense.


Socialization is called the process of mastering and assimilation of social norms by an individual, the formation of correct behavioral patterns, which are necessary for the successful functioning in a particular society.


This word sounds familiar to everyone, but only few people are aware of its specific goals, the real meaning, and the laws of the reactions initiation.


Comprehensive development of a puppy begins a few days after the birth.


The first three months of a dog's life are the main and most important period of primary socialization, when the breeder forms its main future outlook. Without purposeful comprehensive training it is impossible to create a stable positive experience that for many years it will become a "customary standard of living" for a dog.


Proper and broad primary socialization is a reliable foundation that will help our pets adapt easily and quickly to life changes and adequately respond to various social challenges. Its absence generates a large set of fears, phobias, conflict situations and problem actions in the future. And the lack of primary socialization is no longer possible to fully compensate – only to supplement some parts and partly compensate others.


In turn, primary socialization is divided into two stages: simple social adaptation and a deeper process – internalization.


Simple social adaptation is only responsible for the individual's adaptation to certain life requirements. A dog learns to exist within the narrow boundaries of the surrounding environment, without being able to choose other options.


For example, animals in urban parks have an excellent adaptation, but they cannot be called fully social animals.


The next step in the successful development of personality is internalization, which changes the person's world view through the own internal processes of adopting norms and rules, and enables the dog to comfortably and fully become part of a social system, without the desire to avoid it.


There is a need to also recall the mesofactors that influence the result of socialization. We are talking about the features of the environment in which the puppy is raised: densely populated cities, quiet villages or isolated farms.


Mesofactors are so diverse and opposite to the needs, which can eventually formulate polar social behavior. Therefore, the breeder should take into account the peculiarities of each, because the norms of communication in small settlements are significantly different from the models of behavior in metropolitan areas. Without thinking about these nuances, we are losing most of the opportunities that provides to us an early development of the puppy.


Advanced experience


Only after successful primary socialization becomes available secondary – on the basis of which is formed a person with special life tasks. In other words: everything needed to achieve the "professional" goals that the owner put before the dog.


This is already thought-out work that has a clear goal – to teach the dog to ignore a wide range of psychological stresses, potential conflicts, difficult living conditions.


If a dog lives only in a closed space of a private territory – simple primary socialization can cover its needs.


If the dog lives in the city – for a normal comfortable life, there is a need for expanded socialization.


When a dog is preparing for a dog show career or for other types of "professional" activities, it must not only successfully complete all phases of ordinary and specialized secondary socialization, but also maintain regular skills through ongoing trainings.


Only this will enable the dog to feel free and comfortable in close communication with other people, to easily travel and change places of residence, to ignore the imposed conflicts as much as possible, not to stress about sharp sounds, not to react to the unusual behavior of other dogs and people, and to better demonstrate oneself in the psychologically difficult conditions of dog show rings.




Dog show career


 It’s necessary to start dog show career from the very small age, starting even in the breeder's house, where the basic skills and stereotypes of behavior will be formed.


A proper upbringing of a puppy from 3 to 89 months will consolidate the result and build a solid foundation for life.


If these periods are missed, or even worse, they are not properly conducted, owners will have only a long-term correction of behavior under the guidance of professional cynologists or animal psychologists.


One of the indicators of a qualitative socialization of a dog is its ability to internally ignore certain life situations, rather than simply disguising and tolerating own feelings because of the received command.


The question may arise: "What is the difference between the fact that a dog is standing, calmly ignoring the negative processes of the ring, and the one when it tolerates, being paralyzed by command or through physical coercion?”


On the surface, there are no significant differences, but only for those who do not understand and do not predict the consequences of two different states.


A true avoidance of the conflict situation removes the excessive stress on the dog’s psyche, helps to survive the intrusive contact from outsiders, not to react to an emotional or even aggressive environment, frequent changes of the place and living conditions, and other unpleasant life "surprises."


If the dog was taught only to obey the commands, to motionlessly tolerate the people’s touch in a state of paralyzation, and to mask their true feelings – sooner or later, their patience will end, and psychological overload will manifest severe negative consequences.


Then the animal will pour out hidden and blocked by the command fear into an active attempt to resist or into aggressive self-defense.


Redirected aggression is also one of the manifestations of "discharging" from psychological overload and pressure that the dog cannot answer directly.


Unlike patience and paralyzing, a true neglecting does not require much of internal effort, therefore, it has an almost infinite resource and allows the dog to easily accomplish tasks even in difficult social conditions.


Since the appearance of the dog directly depends on its psychological state, ears and tail placement, the length of the neck, upper and lower lines, the posture and the angles of the limbs, movement and much more, are easily changing with various internal feelings of the dog.


You always notice the "courageous" dog: a calm, confident look; a head is raised proudly; center of gravity and chest are presented forward; widely set paws; clear and balanced movements. The dog easily keeps the attention and concentration, and able to quickly switch from rest to active action, and vice versa.


Fear, subjection, strain, stress, fatigue are visually expressed in pressed ears, heavy breathing and elevated salivation; shortening of the neck and trying to lower the head; "soft" pasterns; "fallen" or curved back; straightening the angles of the back paws; lowered tail; tensed abdomen; fallen back center of gravity and by a number of  other "flaws" that distort the real picture.


The same negative psychological strain affects the quality of the dog's movement, and is a frequent cause of the appearance of an amble, "crab", uncertain pushing of the hindquarteers blocked back, and a lowered head movement.


Therefore, high-quality socialization and internal psychological attitude are an important part of the dog presentation at the dog show.




How to determine the internal state of the pet


Several signs that help determine the internal state of the dog:


• raises the front paw, yawns, or lickes itself – signals that the dog is in a psychological tense;


• stops all movement; muscles of the muzzle and neck "turn to stone"; tail stops; breathing becomes superficial – it is a sign of strong stress or readiness to attack;


• the dog does not lie down on its side with stretched legs, very sluggish and drinks a lot of water – it is also a sign of long-term stress and overstrain;


• hind legs or the whole body tremble – this is the adrenalin overloading the body and the brain's inability to stabilize the hormonal background.


It should be borne in mind that it is water that washes away the excess of adrenaline, so limiting access to water can cost you the health of your dog;


• apathy and refusal to work in the ring, or an intolerable need for close physical contact – one of the signals of fear and psychological fatigue;


• the emotionally overexcited dog makes a lot of extra movements in the ring; unable to stop; switch from one task to the other; jumps, twitches in different directions; difficult to concentrate; chaotically changes position; overstresses muscles and often straightens the corners of the hind legs. Sometimes this state is confused with "courage" and a good mood. Although this is how the states of passion, hysteria, and overexcitement are expressed.




If we set before the dog high goals of  "dog show career" – it is necessary to ensure its correct harmonious education and extensive training from the first days to a year.


  Not at all difficult and not long, but daily training is available to each owner, and will provide your dog with good prospects to achieve the goals. In addition, you will receive an extremely valuable gift for yourself and your pet – many years of a common, peaceful and comfortable living among people.