Friends and acquaintances

By Scott Hunt

The Dog Grumbler

THIS month, I return to the subject of socialisation.

In its simplest application this term refers to getting your dog used to things, particularly things it will encounter in the life you have planned for it.

This is especially important during a pups third and fourth month of life — its imprint period — whence it will carry memories of the creatures and events it experiences for the rest of its life. But it doesn’t end there.

Dogs are considered smart when compared to say, chickens or goldfish, but intelligence — like love — is hard to define.

Certainly some animals seem (to humans) to be easier to understand and appear to understand us better than other creatures do. These tend to be the ones we consider smart.

They tend to be social creatures: cetaceans (whales, dolphins), apes (like chimpanzees and gorillas) and dogs are high on the list.

People who study these things suggest that these creatures are more adaptable mentally — a necessity because they are social creatures. Like us.

I have found that most of the problems I encounter with dogs are largely ameliorated by regular supervised contact with other dogs. They like to make friends.

This doesn’t mean that all dogs will form instant friendships at first sight. Like everything, it takes time, repetition and routine. But if you visit the same park with your dog at the same time each day or week, you will soon find you have a calmer, more satisfied dog.

You may find too that when your dog knows such an outing is imminent, it will leave you in no doubt as to the pleasure it foresees.

I often visit the Memorial Park in Lindisfarne, where dozens of well-adjusted, contented dogs socialise with their friends and make new acquaintances. The same goes for the South Street Dog Park in Bellerive.

Obedience training is fairly straight forward, but it always works better if you have a happy dog.

If you go to an obedience club, you may find your dog is more interested in the company than the lesson.

I have written in the past about the importance of making your dog your companion at every opportunity. It is just as important to give it the chance to have friends.

Here it is in black and white: your dog wants to go places with you and smell other dogs.

If your dog has had a good day, it will sleep long and deeply to process all the olfactory information its amazing nose and mental smell processor have gleaned on the trip and it will wake up a better, happier dog.

I am lucky enough to live in the Clarence municipality where facilities are provided for this and events like the Dogs’ Day Out promote responsible dog ownership and offer the opportunity to socialise.

If your area lacks these things, come visit.

We love meeting new dogs and their companions.

Your dog needs friends and acquaintances just like the chimps and the whales and you and me.

Don’t cloister it in your backyard – a happy dog is a wonderful thing.