After owning a Doggy Daycare in Denver for many years, we became very aware of the similarities in social behavior between dogs and humans. We are all social animals and most of us gravitate towards a group of friends, or “packs” in the case of pooches. Early development of appropriate social interactions should begin at a very early age for both toddlers and puppies. Without that early exposure, both will suffer the consequences later in life. When traveling, you can almost always spot the people that want no contact with others, headphones on, looking straight ahead and avoiding any type of eye contact and the ensuing conversation that might arise. I’m somewhat like that and yet I have learned to really enjoy talking with people as I have become more confident through my own life’s experiences.
Dogs that are socialized at an early age don’t seem to know a strange pooch, they love them all. Sure, they will go through the usual sniffing of butts, passing by sideways, looking out the side of their eyes, but if the other dog passes that preemptive test, they are off and running, ready to play. Most young children are just like this as well, some a bit more shy at first which can just be their nature. We parents, worried about the safety of our kids, start planting seeds of caution, “Don’t talk with strangers; don’t let anyone you don’t know get close to you or touch you.” All of this is very necessary advice but can this impact their social development as children get older? Being too protective or hovering at the playground too much can backfire and actually harm a young child’s social skills.
I am one of those grandmas that tries to act relaxed and not be like a hovering helicopter, as I watch my very young grandkids climb what seems to be a ten story spider web climbing thingy. I was probably the very same as a young mom, it’s hard not to want to shelter our kids from harm, physically and socially. Just don’t be so protective that you impede your child’s social skills from developing fully.
The main thing that is exactly the same in canine and human behavior is social dominance. When we walk into a meeting, a party or any other group event, we hold up our head, look around the room and immediately put a smile on our face, looking to other people and trying to pick up on friendly cues or body language that tells us we are safe to move through the crowd. We’ve been trained for years to look for those certain cues or glances that tell us we are accepted and part of this “pack.”
New dog owners always asked the same questions when they came for tours of our Doggy Daycare, “What will my pooch do during their day? How will he know how to play? Will she be comfortable? Safe? Fit into the pack? Learn naughty behaviors like barking? Don’t these questions seem similar to what you might ask at a children’s daycare? Maybe not the barking but kids can definitely learn naughty behavior from other kids.
It’s critical to develop social skills at an early age, no matter if it’s a puppy or a toddler. Early development of learning how to get along in the world will keep everyone safer, more secure and confident, and more apt to learn how to deal with adversity and the challenges that go along with living in our very social world that is broader than ever thanks to social media.
Go enjoy that pack of yours and being part of the crowd.