Button eats it up. All wags and eagerness, she believes the world is her oyster because…. it is.
I think back to PJ, my pitbull x Jack Russell. PJ, short for Plain Jane, had a scruffy, brindle face I found priceless; others barely looked at her. I was told, more than once, that she was the ugliest dog someone had ever seen (which is not, PS, a way to endear yourself to me).
Socializing PJ was a process of attempting to cajole people into touching her. A few did. Most didn’t. No one in the general public looked at her, smiled spontaneously, approached in a friendly way or engaged her with utter delight for extended periods.
Watching Button scramble toward anyone she sees wagging and happy, I recognize this behavior. Many toy breed dogs and retriever pups exhibit this gleeful optimism and now I understand that this is, at least in part, due to how cute we humans find them. They reflect the experience they have had – as we all do.
And remembering puppy PJ who did none of those things and believed none of those things, I find myself pondering how much all this impacts a dog’s socialization process.
If I’d understood all this better back in 2001, I’d have tied a funny dog bandana around her neck, put a cute doggy shirt on her, taught her tricks – like wave, roll over, bow. I’d have done something to make her more appealing to others.
I also realize now that seeing my pup passed by over and over again made me grumpy. We were a closed-faced person walking a werewolf/dust bunny cross – not exactly the most approachable duo.
And if I’d understood that better, I would have taken my own advice to “act the way you want the other person to act” instead of taking on their distance and disconnection. I would have smiled; tried not to let it get to me.
Luckily for us, my wonderful dog training students adored PJ because I did and, over time, my wallflower bloomed beautifully nurtured by their gentle hands and loving grins. After a rough, isolated start before I got her, she grew into a tail-wagging, big-grinning dog.
So, can looks affect socialization? It sure can but it doesn’t have to define outcome. Outcome is a combo of your dog’s genetic potential + the effort you’re willing to put in. Extra effort goes a long way toward getting you the best possible result.
Today, when I have Button out for another social swarming, I’ll think of PJ with a smile. She has, yet again, been my teacher.
Audio of Sarah Reading This Blog: Can Breed Affect Socialization