Nothing to Fear

The importance of socializing your dog

By: Kaitlin Calk

Imagine what it would be like if you grew up without ever going out in public. Sure, you have everything you need at home: food, water, a roof over your head and even ways to entertain yourself. It’s comfortable enough, but you have no idea what the outside world is like. Therefore, that world is absolutely terrifying.

Suddenly, your home begins to seem more like a prison. You are trapped within its walls by strangers who may do you harm, loud noises of mysterious origins and an infinite amount of the unknown. When the day comes that you are forced to go out into the world, you are likely to respond with fear or even aggression.

As you go out more often, you notice that your heart rate goes down, you can breathe a little easier and you can see beyond that wall of fear and into a world that isn’t as scary as you thought it was. You find that instead of living in constant fear of strangers and new things, you are happy to meet new people and to explore the world around you.

Dogs that are not exposed to meeting new people, going to new places or interacting with other dogs feel the same way you would if you never left your home: scared.

It is easiest to properly socialize dogs when they are puppies. Once they are fully vaccinated, you can take them anywhere that is pet-friendly in order to teach them early on that the world is not something to be afraid of. There are many places in Corpus Christi that allow dogs, including Petco, Petsmart and Half-Price Books. Even some restaurants and bars, such as the Executive Surf Club and Cactus & Vine, allow dogs on their patios. Not only will this experience help socialize your puppy – it is also a great way for you to bond with your furry child.

It is also a good idea to arrange play-dates with friend and family members’ dogs, or even to enroll in puppy training classes so your puppy can learn how to play with other dogs. Consistent outings like these will help your puppy grow into a well-rounded, friendly and happy adult dog.

Sadly, most under-socialized adult dogs are surrendered to shelters or even abandoned on the side of the road because their previous guardians saw their issues as insurmountable. Socializing an adult dog can be more of a challenge, but it is not impossible.

When Cairo (pictured) came to the Gulf Coast Humane Society in October of last year, he was very scared around new people and he would become aggressive when handled. After a lot of hard work and many hours of gaining his trust by sitting quietly with him, hand-feeding him and giving him tons of treats, Cairo came to trust us and he is now completely comfortable around all of the staff. He is still unsure around possible adopters, but due to the fact that he was given the chance to learn that people are not something to be afraid of, he warms up very quickly.

Unfortunately, when the majority of people go to a shelter to find a dog to bring into their family, they are looking for an instant connection – for a dog to come right up to them and immediately love them. Due to the idea of that instant bond, shy dogs consistently get overlooked and end up waiting for months or even years before they are adopted. In kill shelters, they are often euthanized because they were not able to find a home in time. In reality, the dogs you have to work a little harder to get kisses and tail wags from end up being the most loyal, loving dogs.

In many ways, properly socializing your pet is just as important as spaying and neutering when it comes to keeping the stray and shelter population to a minimum. Making sure your dog is comfortable in new situations and around new people and animals will help prevent behavioral issues in the future that may make it seem like surrendering them to a shelter is the only option. They depend solely on you to keep them healthy and happy, both physically and mentally.

Another way to help is to adopt a shy dog. When looking for a dog to adopt, don’t disregard that dog cowering in the back of the kennel. Helping an under-socialized dog come out of that shell of fear is an extremely rewarding experience for you, and it is life changing for the dog that once could barely lift his head for fear of the unknown.

The Gulf Coast Humane Society is located at 3118 Cabaniss Parkway in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 361-225-0845.

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