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Socialization is essential with dogs of any size, but it is especially important with ones that grow up to be really huge. Mastiffs are good-natured and intelligent, but they need extensive training to overcome their stubbornness. Mastiffs are not recommended for first time dog owners because their confusion, anxiety, and mood swings get the best of them at times, making it difficult to direct them. They are the type of dogs that need socialization to become fully integrated family members. It will be difficult to introduce new pups or people to our dogs if they haven’t been socialized and trained thoroughly. Without proper training during their formative years, they wouldn’t become their best selves when they become adults; in comparison, they will be closer to a wolf picked out from the wild than to a docile house pet that children can play with. This is why it’s important to enroll them in socialization courses as soon as we get the approval of our trusted vet. These courses will expose our Mastiffs to other dogs and people after teaching them basic commands. These courses will be held by skilled trainers to ensure the safety and enjoyment of dogs and people alike. Socialization courses for both puppy Mastiffs and adult ones are available in many neighborhoods, and can easily be found online.
Of course, even with socialization courses, it will be best to supplement our Mastiffs’ training with simple tricks we can do at home. The key to successfully socializing seriously protective Mastiffs is by keeping training sessions well-paced, frequent, and fun, so our dogs see it as an extension of playtime. Socializing our puppy Mastiffs can also improve our bond with them as we’re instilling happiness and confidence in them.
Mastiffs are most impressionable as puppies. Between 7 weeks to 4 months of age, they go through an observation and absorption period wherein external stimuli influence and permanently shape their future personalities. Socialization is important during this period because we want to teach them how to react to things as adults. How they’ll respond to other dogs in the park and human guests will be dictated by the quality and frequency of socialization they get during this period in their lives. Outside of socialization courses conducted by dog trainers, we can gently expose our Mastiffs to a wide variety of people and places to train them to be adaptable and appreciative of changes.
Socialization is cannot be discussed without relating it to puppy development. Puppies go through various stages of development during which there are periods when they are prone to developing fear. Socialization is critical in shaping dogs’ behavior especially during these two “fear periods”.
The first of these fear periods occurs among puppy Mastiffs between eight to ten weeks old and the second among puppy Mastiffs between six to fourteen months old. If they experience negative instead of positive interactions with humans and other dogs during these periods, they may develop fear which they will carry until adulthood. It’s pitiful to imagine puppy Mastiffs who don’t get positive interactions, but fully grown Mastiffs who didn’t get their needed positive interactions is something else.
Even though they are innately good-natured, dogs who weren’t socialized may end up becoming stubborn and at times, hostile. Stubbornness and hostility in dogs is even more difficult to deal with in strong and huge dogs like Mastiffs. Dogs that were not socialized may develop serious behavioral issues like aggression, rooted from anxiety and fear of the unfamiliar. Gradual and sufficient socialization can help our puppies associate various kinds of sights, smells, and sounds with positive feelings. Proper socialization can prevent our Mastiffs from biting children and feeling nervous in moving vehicles.
Socialization of puppies actually begins with breeders who should handle them with utmost gentleness. Once we take home our puppy Mastiffs, it’s when our part in their socialization process begins.
Bringing puppy Mastiffs home is like taking them to a strange new world where every aspect is an opportunity to make positive associations. We should try to turn our homes into sensory museums where our puppies can expose themselves to various sounds, smells, and textures in their own time. We should avoid exposing them to sudden movements, loud noises, and harm at any cost. This means that we should watch our puppy Mastiff attentively and make sure that it’s getting positive responses in every corner of our homes. Once they’re settled, we can begin introducing them to various people who differ in height, appearance, age, and voice. It is also important to supervise our new pups’ interactions with other dogs to make sure that they’re safe and that the experience is pleasant for them.
Just as with puppies, making the interactions of adult Mastiffs positive by showering them with praises, being generous with belly rubs, and giving them treats is the key to their socialization. This will encourage association between positive feelings and various objects, pets, and people. Just as with puppies, this trick will work with adult Mastiffs who may have behavioral issues. Mastiffs that were not socialized properly as puppies or were acquired later in life can still be aided in associating unfamiliar situations with positive experiences. Even though we’ve missed the aforementioned fear periods, slowly reintroducing our protective dogs to new sights, smells, sounds, and experiences with diligent supervision and utmost gentleness and positivity by praising and giving them treats can help overcome their fear and aggression. Even though gentleness is must, firmness in asserting our dominance and taking care and control over our Mastiffs are just as necessary.
We should involve the entire household by letting them know that the Mastiff in training is going to undergo a socialization process. They can all play roles in the socialization process to slowly but surely extend our dogs’ comfort zones. The process of allowing them to make positive associations with various things should happen gradually and consistently. It will be counter-effective to rush the process. For example, if we want our Mastiffs to get accustomed to being handled by multiple people they don’t know, we can start by letting them see meet relatives who will live with the family for weeks. Days after, the protective nature of our dogs against the relatives will decrease. When our dogs are no longer growling, our relatives can collectively start feeding the Mastiff while staying gentle and a couple of arms length away. When the protective Mastiff begins showing enthusiasm by wagging its tail at the sight, sound, and smell of our relatives, we can opt to hold the harness and leash close to our bodies as we give our dogs belly rubs; while doing this, our relatives can gently stroke the coat of our dogs as we carefully guide their head towards the food bowls placed near our relatives. It is important to firmly hold our dogs’ harness and to remind our relatives to stay calm and soothing to make the socialization process effective.
All my life I've been in love with one big dopey Mastiff family member after another. No other breed has given so much pleasure, so it's a joy for my team and I to research everything there is to know about them in this blog. We hope you enjoy the reading as much as we enjoy the writing :)
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