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How To Create a Well-adjusted Dog

Socializing dogs at a dog park.

These days people take their dogs everywhere. We take them in the car to run errands, to restaurant patios, to the bank, and even on vacation. As such, today's dogs need to be very well-adjusted and behaved in a variety of places and situations. How does a person teach her dog to be a stellar citizen?

When I was a kid, I learned to swim by a swimming instructor throwing me in a pool and yelling, "Swim, swim!" Of course, other people were in the pool to save me if necessary, but I didn't think about that. I'm guessing better teaching methods existed, but I learned to swim, and fast. In my experience, the best way to build a socially well-behaved dog is to throw him or her in the pool so to speak.

From the youngest age possible, take your dog everywhere. Walk him or her on city sidewalks and into every business and home that will allow them. Hike them on trails. Introduce them to people, traffic, noises, and a variety of animals, you name it. Let them meet hundreds of people and dogs. In short, socialize them like crazy. Before long, nothing will bother them.

The best approach is to start when he or she is a puppy, but the same process will work with an older dog, though it may take a bit more time.

I learned this process years ago when a member of a citizens mounted police unit. Our horses had to go through an intensive process of facing every type of scary situation imaginable until nothing scared them anymore. I was astonished by my horse's new confidence and his ability to remain steady during the most stressful situations. His new countenance helped even when he was trail riding or dragging calves to the fire. So we members of the mounted unit began socializing and desensitizing our non-police horses, too.

The key to the process is your ability to remain the calm leader. This is easier said than done, but if you get stressed, your dog and horse will, too. They read your energy at all times and take their cues from you. If you stay confident and immerse them in every situation possible, they will reward you by behaving well no matter where you take them.


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