Dogs are very social animals and require lots of opportunity to interact with others. When that instinct is quelled, it can result in behavior problems like biting. The second week of April is National Dog Bite Prevention Week® which gives us the perfect opportunity to examine how social enrichment can help prevent biting behavior in dogs.
Social enrichment helps fulfill our dog’s need to interact with others. As pack animals, the ability to connect with others is a very important part of their world.
Providing plenty of ways for our dogs to engage with other people and animals is important during their first few months of life, as this is when dogs begin developing their personality. Dogs that haven’t been exposed to other animals or people during this time have a much higher chance of being aggressive later on in life.
How Social Enrichment For Dogs Can Prevent Dog Bites
Dogs have a set time to learn this important social behavior, according to Merck Veterinary manual.
- Three to eight weeks: Dogs tend to focus on other dogs for stimulation.
- Five to twelve weeks: Dogs tend to shift their focus to people.
- Sixteen to twenty weeks: Dogs best learn to adapt to new situations
- Six to nine months: Dogs reach sexual maturity and have a more difficult time of relating to animals and people. While they can absolutely still learn this behavior, it takes a little longer and can be more challenging for them.
Spending time with people
Depending on your dog’s personality, social interaction could mean time with other dogs or time with people. Just like with us, when we isolate from others, we tend to lose our natural ability the connect with them. If you feel like your dog prefers the company of humans, that’s perfectly okay, but remember to give them opportunities.
There are some easy ways to do this, but if your dog is already exhibiting signs of aggression, it is best to work with a professional.
It can take time for dogs to feel comfortable around strangers and it’s important to move slowly. Consider asking a pet sitter to come by while you’re away or a dog walker to take your pet out when you’re at work. When your dog is home alone, consider turning on DOGTV as its programming is designed to not only keep your pet company but to enrich his environment with dog-centric sights and sounds.
Some offices allow dogs to come in with you, and it may be worth exploring this benefit. This type of interaction is not only good for pets, it has been shown to reduce stress of workers in offices!
Spending time with other dogs
It can be a bit overwhelming to introduce your dogs to other animals. Start by joining a friend and their dog(s) for a park outing. Make sure that at least one of the dogs involved is non-reactive (very low key and relaxed). This will help set your own dog up for success.
If your dog is already comfortable with other animals, dog daycare may be a great option! Daycare services for dogs is similar to daycare for children – it is filled with supervised activities that are designed to keep your dog engaged and stimulated all day long. This is a great option if you have dogs that are very active and not provided with enough stimulation during the day. By the time you get home, your dog will be relaxed and ready for dinner and a nap.
Make sure your dogs are well-balanced and filled with opportunities to learn and engage with others. It’s as important for their lives as it is for yours!