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Social Behavior in Dogs

Social Behavior in Dogs

Dogs are a very social species and form strong attachments with their human family members. Given their pack behavior tendency, it is important that you establish your leadership role over your dog as early as possible. Structure and positive reinforcement go a long way in establishing appropriate social roles.

Because dogs are very social, some dogs may form dysfunctional attachments to their owners that can result in separation anxiety. Therefore, it is important to teach your dog to be comfortable when separated from you for increasingly longer periods of time. Gradually accustom your dog to being away from you in 10-minute increments. In addition, if you continually give in to your dog’s demands (demanding petting, demanding playtime or treats), you will be reinforcing needy and/or bossy behavior.

Establish proper play behavior by socializing your pet early to a variety of people and other animals. Puppy play classes provide an excellent opportunity for exposure in a controlled environment. Many veterinarians discourage taking puppies to puppy class until they are fully vaccinated at four months of age. While there is some risk that your puppy could contract an illness from such exposure, far more dogs are surrendered to shelters because they received insufficient socialization to dogs and people at an early age and become excessively fearful or aggressive.

Prevent thievery from turning into an attention-seeking game by ignoring your dog if he or she steals something that is not harmful or valuable. If you need to retrieve the item, offer a trade until you’ve taught your dog to relinquish objects on command.

Reward your dog when it offers to relinquish objects. This teaches the notion that relinquishing objects is a "good thing" as opposed to keeping them for a game of chase.

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Dr. Borns-Weil says...

Dr. Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, DACVB

Dr. Borns-Weil, DVM, DACVB

Board-Certified Animal Behaviorist

Dogs are a very social species and form strong attachments with their human family members.