Does socialization mask behavioral sensitivities?

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Postby mnp13 » January 17th, 2011, 11:51 pm

You know what's funny? I was not the first home that Riggs was put in. Before me, he was sent to one of the top Pit Bull people in the country. Yes, country in multiple sports.

He was sent back. Why? Because they couldn't get him to bark in training. Yes, that is the one and only reason.

Riggs has his issues, but fear, hesitation, off switch, or self preservation? Those are not it. Anyone who has ever been on the phone with me knows that Riggs barks... we can't get him to shut up. I've used an e-collar on him to the level that makes me cry. But one of the most highly decorated Pit Bull handlers in the country washed him because it was easier to do that then figure out why he only barks in his crate and nowhere else. I had a trainer who tried to "prove to me" that he was crap, and run him by doing things that would have made the same trainer's dog have heart failure. Didn't make a dent.

He is far beyond my level, though I adore him and no longer regret keeping him because he has made such a difference in how I handle dogs. I also know that in the hands of a better handler and with access to better trainers he would be a very different dog.

My point? The "best of the best" washed him because it was easier to do that then train him. Dogs don't wash out of sports because there is "too much pressure" they wash out because it's easier to dump them and move on to one that doesn't need work. People deny it all the time, but the evidence does not bear it out - there are posts all over the place about four month old puppies that will "kill every decoy, be national champion at 12 months, beat anything on two or four legs, man stopper, blah dee blah dee blah" and a year later... *poof* not a word about the dog that was "an unstoppable genetic masterpiece." Where did the genetics go? Nowhere. The dog had an issue and suddenly the problem was "bad genetics, it didn't show up until five minutes ago, but he's a shitter, get rid of him."

About a year and a half ago, one of the top Dalmation people in AKC obedience returned a dog because it "had no focus in the ring." If you're such hot shit, then figure out how to get that focus. Every dog has a trigger, just because it's not easy to find doesn't mean it's not there. (took me 4 years to learn that with Ruby.)

So, to get back on topic (thank you Diana) are Riggs' "problems" nature or nurture? Well, since I know what his puppy life was like, I know the problem was not lack of exposure to things as a puppy. I also know that things before I got him were not easy and he got very used to a certain way of behaving that suited his needs.

So... does socialization "mask" things? In my opinion, no. There is no such thing as a puppy that is "too exposed to the world" (in a positive manner of course.) Socialization creates coping mechanisms, and if done correctly THOSE are the "default behaviors" that we are talking about.
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Postby TheRedQueen » January 17th, 2011, 11:57 pm

:clap: Well said Michelle!
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Postby airwalk » January 18th, 2011, 12:09 am

Michelle I understand your point; however, here is my experience. All three of my dogs are pound puppies, but 2 of them I have had since they were very wee (Scooter was about 7-8 weeks and Doogie was 6-8 weeks). Now I'm pretty sure that neither of them had much in the way of socialization prior to arrival at my house.

Scooter stayed (and I'm damn glad he did) because my assessment was, even in his severely depleted state he was temperamentally one of the most sound dogs I had the pleasure of meeting. Nothing much bothered him. Of course, I promptly began introducing him to everything I could find - and still do. He is still one of the most temperamentally sound dogs I've ever met.

Doogie is the opposite end of the story. Again I had to assume that given his condition upon arrival at the shelter he had very little care, socialization or frankly much of anything else. He came to me, he got healthy and we began the same process we used with Scooter. He is no where near as temperamentally sound as Scooter. He shys away, he growls at new and scary things, his first choice of action if it's scary is to run and hide behind me. We are working on it and I am confident that one day most of the big bag monsters will have been put to rest.

Two dogs, same basic ages when gotten, same basic condition on arrival, same basic raising, very similar exposures...tempermentally two entirely different dogs.

I think that is what Allison is alluding to.
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Postby amazincc » January 18th, 2011, 12:14 am

furever_pit wrote:I do agree that you can teach some dogs to cope with some sensitivities. However, whether or not you see things resurface will depend on the pressure you put on the dog.


Hmmm... see... that's why I disagree, and that's what made me think of Mick.

Mick was extremely over-the-top fear aggressive (he was around 4 months old when I met him) when it came to being handled by anyone but myself and Jessica, among other things.
He had to be sedated and muzzled before even entering the vets office... then he had to be completely knocked out at the vets office in order to receive a routine exam. He was a silent and unpredictable lunger (which I "taught" him because I corrected him for growling at people), and he was one of those dogs who would - no doubt - fall into the very-dangerous-dog category. Some of it may have been genetic, sure... but a big part of it was also my ignorance of how to work with him, and teach him the necessary coping skills. I thought by shielding him from "scary" things/people I would be doing him a favor, but in reality I'm sure I babied him right into most of his anxieties and made them 100x worse.
Fast forward six years... I joined here, started using some of the info I found in different threads, and followed some of the advice I was given.
Fast forward another six months... Mick was diagnosed w/lymphoma. I decided to try chemo.
A dog who receives chemo cannot be sedated, for various reasons. Do you see where I'm going w/this?
Mick managed to complete his five months of chemo... he was still muzzled and restraint by me during each course of chemo, but he allowed other people/strangers to HANDLE him. He WALKED INTO the Oncologists office on his own, he "assumed his position" on the floor of the exam room, and he held still while he was injected w/his medication.
If THAT wasn't pressure outside of his every-day life I don't know what is.

He learned. He DID it., and he coped better than I ever expected. After SIX years of wanting to rip peoples faces off if he as much as thought that someone looked in his direction from a mile away.

So, pardon me, if I don't believe that a skittish 7 week-old puppy doesn't have potential, and/or is doomed to be a wash-out as an adult, due to sensitivities... genetic or otherwise.

Argh... I miss my boy. :sad2: :cry:
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Postby TheRedQueen » January 18th, 2011, 12:15 am

True socialization that can mold temperament has to happen really early...the older the dog/pup gets, the less impact that it has. You can work and train for a better response to things (think of the Inaras)...but you can't change the basic underlying "raw" dog. ;)

There are always going to be cases of dogs with rock solid temperaments despite genetics to the contrary, and upbringing to the contrary...of course. I didn't get my Xander until he was a year old...I have no idea where he came from or what his story really was...he was dumped at a high kill shelter in WV and had three days left before dying. He's one of the most biddable, rock-solid dogs I've ever met. He's awesome. So yeah...there's another story of a great dog with a bad upbringing. It happens...dogs are resiliant and adaptable.
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Postby mnp13 » January 18th, 2011, 12:18 am

airwalk wrote:Two dogs, same basic ages when gotten, same basic condition on arrival, same basic raising, very similar exposures...tempermentally two entirely different dogs.

I think that is what Allison is alluding to.


I would disagree. What it has seemed to me is that Allison is of the opinion that "too much" socialization covers up the problems and she wants to see "raw material" at an evaluation that she wants to make herself.

Now your dogs seemed to have very similar beginnings, and once you had them you know what their lives were like - exposure, exposure, exposure... did all of that work "hide" Doogie's temperament problems? It doesn't sound like it. The real problems are there, they stay there, and they can't be hidden by something as simple as making sure that the dog doesn't have unbased fears.

That is where the disconnect seems to be - that some of us don't think it's possible to have an "over socialized" dog, and if you know what you're looking at and trust the breeder regardless of how much "extra" socialization was done the problems will be there and will be evident.
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Postby airwalk » January 18th, 2011, 12:22 am

Well I'm not choosing sides here, because frankly I don't think there are sides to choose and this is an excellent discussion for folks thinking about getting drivey dogs...but...

I haven't seen anyone yet say don't socialize the dog/puppy. No one has said that's a bad idea. What I saw was one persons preference when choosing a dog for a specific purpose. I think the information here on why socialization is a good thing...is a good thiing.

Christine, you're right you ended up teaching Mick some amazing coping skills and were able to get him to a place where he could be treated; however, you must admit that was with conditions. The primary one being that you were right there with him. Do I think what you did was amazing..HELL YEAH...but temperamentally Mick was basically unsound. You taught him to cope with things.

I'm hoping to teach Doogie to cope with big, bad scary things...but temperamentally he is no where near as sound as Scooter.

I agree that some dogs are simply temperamentally sound and that is genetics at their very best. I have no clue where Scooter came from but I can assure you early socialization (pre-8 weeks) had nothing to do with the dog he was when I met him. His raw material was simply good.

I think we may be losing sight of what the discussion is and taking some things way too personally.
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Postby airwalk » January 18th, 2011, 12:24 am

Well since Doogie is a work in progress I can't completely answer that question, but do I think that eventually we will get to a point where some of his issues are masked with coping skills..i hope so that's why I do what I do with him. Do I think that we can fundamentally change those temperament issues...no! We will learn to cope and handle, but I believe he will always "want" to back away and growl.
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Postby TheRedQueen » January 18th, 2011, 12:26 am

airwalk wrote:Well I'm not choosing sides here, because frankly I don't think there are sides to choose and this is an excellent discussion for folks thinking about getting drivey dogs...but...

I haven't seen anyone yet say don't socialize the dog/puppy. No one has said that's a bad idea. What I saw was one persons preference when choosing a dog for a specific purpose. I think the information here on why socialization is a good thing...is a good thiing.



Oh yes, Allison (furever_pit) did indeed say that it was a bad idea...unless I'm reading this wrong:

While I don't think what you are doing can hurt, this kind of stuff is not something I am into for pups. But I recognize that I come from a totally different viewpoint than rescue.

Best of luck with the litter. I hope that all this socialization and exposure gets you what you are looking for.
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Postby airwalk » January 18th, 2011, 12:29 am

I guess I read it differently. I don't read that as saying it's a bad idea...it's just not the way she works with or chooses pups. That's kind of why I think this is getting too personal.

Erin I raise my puppies just the way you do. I expose, expose, expose. Hell look at Dash I spoil them rotten.

I know lots of folks that don't and think I'm a complete fruit. Some of them have amazingly stable dogs...others not so much. Of all of my puppies most were pretty stable...some not so much.

True temperament flaws can't be undone...simply coping skills taught.
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Postby TheRedQueen » January 18th, 2011, 12:36 am

airwalk wrote:I guess I read it differently. I don't read that as saying it's a bad idea...it's just not the way she works with or chooses pups. That's kind of why I think this is getting too personal.


Well, that's your opinion...;) I took it to be a snide remark about what I was doing with the pups. I don't honestly care if she agrees or not...but why even say anything if you can't say something nice. I wasn't asking for opinions...just mentioning what I was doing. :|


True temperament flaws can't be undone...simply coping skills taught.


If you work with them early enough...you can change temperament...after a certain age, sure, you're just teaching them how to deal with things.
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Postby amazincc » January 18th, 2011, 12:46 am

airwalk wrote:Christine, you're right you ended up teaching Mick some amazing coping skills and were able to get him to a place where he could be treated; however, you must admit that was with conditions. The primary one being that you were right there with him.


Oh, absolutely... I did have to be right there w/him, but after six long years of me not being able to walk him in public, basically, he did an AMAZING job since we had very little time to "prepare" for chemo visits... you know what I mean?
He HAD potential all along, IMO... imagine if I had done with him what I have done w/Sepp and Faust?

I'm still not convinced that Mick was totally unsound from the get-go... I am convinced that I contributed to his anxieties and bad coping skills/behaviors in a major way. Like they say... "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" and "hindsight is 20/20".
I don't regret having lived with, and loved, Mick... the good, the bad, AND the ugly. lol
He will always be my heart dog.
I only regret not having done better by him right from the start.

The lessons that boy taught me will benefit any future dogs in my house a-thousand-times-over, that's for sure. :heartbeat:
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Postby airwalk » January 18th, 2011, 12:52 am

You're right Erin that is my opinion. Just as you have yours. I didn't read any of it as snide, simply an observation. Frankly if I were going to go and spend money to purposefully choose a puppy for a working do I would be looking for much the same kinds of things that Allison talked about. I don't, so it's not an issue for me. I get what I get and I work around, under, over and through it.

That was exactly my comment about the conversation was quality for anyone reading unless it became personal and stopped being about socialization and masking behavioral sensitivities.

Christine, I agree, every dog I've ever owned have taught me. Magic probably the most - he's the most difficult, knotheaded, sensitive, meatheaded, PITA dog I've ever owned. Am I a better dog owner and trainer because of him..sure. Would I have been fascinated to see what he could have been had I gotten him when he was a puppy and raised him my way...yep. Do I believe that some of this is temperament and fundamental and not likely to have been changed, but taught to cope more appropriately - yep.
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Postby amazincc » January 18th, 2011, 12:58 am

When we refer to "working dogs"... I guess it depends what type of "work" we're talking about?
I always get the feeling that owners of "working dogs" don't seem as attached to their dogs as most pet owners are to their "pet" dogs.
Maybe it's a totally different mind-set altogether? I do know that a lot of selling/trading goes on in the "working dog" world, for whatever reason, and I always get the impression that the emotional owner-dog attachment isn't quite as... strong? :? :|
So, I guess that would maybe explain the differences in picking out/assessing a puppy?
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Postby airwalk » January 18th, 2011, 1:03 am

I'm not sure if I would say less attached, but it's a different attachment (for some, not all). Some are in the work. For example in hounds, there is trading all the time looking for the hound with the best nose, the best tracking...they aren't "pets" the way we think of pets.

I don't know if that's true of Allison, I suspect not or she wouldn't be a forum like this. What I saw her write was when she is spending $$ to purchase a puppy for a specific working job...she has specific criteria that she is looking for and that includes the raw dog. I can't blame her, if I were going to go buy a dog I would want to purchase the very best base material I could get.

While you can help train and teach coping skills and desensitize, it is frankly way easier to train if you begin with the best raw dog you can find.

It's just that most of us get the foundlings that no one else wants and our hearts go out and we take them in and make them the best damn dogs we are capable of...it's the way we roll.
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Postby amazincc » January 18th, 2011, 1:09 am

While you can help train and teach coping skills and desensitize, it is frankly way easier to train if you begin with the best raw dog you can find.


Well, yeah... that makes sense. I've yet to find out what that's like. lol
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Postby airwalk » January 18th, 2011, 1:20 am

me either....I keep saying one of these days, but the truth be told, I won't. I'll always pick up the sick, the ugly, the barker, the problem child.
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Postby TinaMartin » January 18th, 2011, 9:00 am

I dont think there is a dispute about getting the best raw material possible. I feel the dispute lies in what is done with it and when. If you look at behavior in wolf pups the alpha pup is the one who does the most exploring of environment, testing limits and just generally getting into things. This happens from the moment it comes out of the den. Why does this happen? How else is it going to to gain environmental experience? I dont believe that genetics and environment are 2 separate things when it comes to shaping a pup. Will there be dogs who turn out fine without it yes. My opinion however is why not give the pup all the tools in the shed instead of just some.
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Postby SisMorphine » January 18th, 2011, 11:52 am

DemoDick wrote:
Regarding working dogs: I see a lot of people who wash out dogs with "environmental issues" because they either have no idea how to train or don't want to be bothered with it. Most people these days are just into drive manipulation and don't want to problem solve, hence the second the dog shows any issues it gets washed out. Dog sport competitors go through prospects like crap through a goose. The new dog is the greatest, awesome genetics, naturally full, hard grips, environmentally sound, etc. Then six months down the road the dog is sold or retired because of a "genetic" issue...but the NEW dog is the greatest, awesome genetics, etc. Silly, really, because I've seen dogs with all kinds of "issues" who show no interest in bitework at all explode at 18 months into solid workhorses.

Teeny was one of these. Didn't show any real interest in bitework until she was 23 months to the date, and then exploded. I had one of the FR greats tell me that she didn't understand why I was putting the time into the dog, but that she was glad that Teeny made her eat her words ;)
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Postby LMM » January 18th, 2011, 12:08 pm

To quote Dr. Dunbar, because for me, he puts this so simply:

However, there are absolutely no excuses for dogs that are scared and aggressive towards people. Handling neonates and older puppies, socialization and training are as easy as they are enjoyable. Dogs may be taught basic manners at anytime in their life, but puppies can only be socialized and develop soft mouths during puppyhood. Certainly, remedial socialization and training may improve a fearful/aggressive pup’s disposition and behavior but without sufficient early socialization, a puppy will never become what he could have been. The socialization window has closed and the opportunity has been lost forever.
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