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  • Jennifer Giesbrecht

Dispelling the "social" myth

We know that not every dog MUST enjoy being “social” all the time or even enjoy “being social” at all.


The expectation that every dog must get along with all other dogs and love playing with all others at all times is one of the most misleading common myths that does the greatest disservice not only to dogs, but also to their owners.


Owners feel something is wrong with their dog if they aren’t the definition of “happy go lucky” in all situations with all dogs.


We don’t know any person that loves being around all people all the time, and we shouldn’t expect dogs to be this way either.


What we do expect, and what you should expect of us as caregivers, is for us to be educated and knowledgeable on how to identify and then meet each dog’s needs by creating a positive enriching experience for each dog.

Effective dog daycare isn't about being “social”. Daycare is about meeting each dog's needs by looking out for not only their physical wellbeing, but also their emotional and mental wellbeing.

Through education we can offer unique programs that differ from the old “play-all-day one-size-fits-all” model.


The myth of “socializing”

The commonly accepted (but incorrect) definition of a “well socialized” dog is one that is always happy to play with new dogs and which can get along with others in any situation it’s put in.


When a dog doesn’t meet others well on a leash or play nicely at the park with all other dogs, owners feel embarrassed and that their dog isn’t “socialized” well enough.


“I need my dog to become socialized” is the number one request we have from owners wanting to improve the quality of their life and their dog’s life when they see their dog being uncomfortable with other dogs, not greeting other dogs calmly, or being a rough “dominant” or “dog-selective” player.


The expectation is that simply by being placed in a room with other dogs, they will learn to “dog”, learn the language of play communication and will latently become “socialized”.


But…


That’s not what socialized means. And that’s definitely not how growing comfortable with others works.


Being socialized isn’t just about other dogs or playing. And just exposure to other dogs in a one-on-one setting or a group setting isn’t the magical cure-all answer for if a dog hasn’t been “well socialized” throughout its life.


For a dog that reacts poorly around others, being immersed in a group of dogs doesn’t help the emotional reasons they are reactive to others, but DOES stop the display of those emotions, simply by virtue of the fact that to freak out in a room full of strangers is downright dangerous, so the dogs “shut down” and don’t display any behaviour.


What looks like an antidote is actually just a suppressant.


And when our goal is to advocate for the wellbeing of each dog and to truly help them become “well socialized”, a different goal based on knowledge, experience and education is required.


What does it mean to be well-socialized?

What well-socialized IS about is being able to handle the new and unpredictable in a predictably calm and confident manner.


Being well-socialized means your dog can handle the unknown and doesn’t react in fearful ways. It doesn’t mean your dog has to love others or want to play with them, and it doesn’t mean your dog always has to do well in groups of other dogs 100% of the time.


So what can a dog daycare do?

For puppies, a good, intentional dog daycare can play an invaluable role in a puppy's early and proper socialization, can teach them to be comfortable and confident in new places and with new people and can strengthen their confidence in communicating and their ability to listen to others.


For nervous of anxious dogs, it can help build their confidence, give them a physical outlet, broaden their trusted relationships with people, and offer them enriching and positive experiences. It can offer them the opportunity to grow comfortable with others and find joy in engaging with others and can give them rewarding experiences through new and stimulating environments.


For already socially-interested dogs, it gives them the joy of connecting with new and familiar playmates and of expanding their trusted relationships with people. It offers them physical and mental engagement opportunities and maintains their adaptability to and comfort with new situations, new dogs and people.


And for reactive or aggressive dogs, it gives them a physical outlet, broadens their trusted relationships with people, and offers mental engagement through stimulation and sensory experiences tailored to them. It meets their needs without overwhelming them or pushing them beyond their comfort threshold.


But the key to achieving this? The right daycare. A daycare equipped, physically and with the knowledge, to meet their needs and care for their wellbeing.


And that's why Paws Pet Pad has become a wellbeing-based daycare: a dog daycare going beyond what has been and ushering in what should be.

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