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Over socialization

2243 Views 30 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  sizzledog
Hello. Long story short: we moved to a big house with over 50 windows and openings. My family consists of 2 babies (3&4 years old)my wife (working), a lady who helps for the house (and lives with us) and me (working hard :) away from home 7am to 6pm).

So we bought a female Doberman for company and protection/alert. To tell you the truth, I had many male dogs in the past but without the babies and always living in the yard and never inside the house and as near socialized as this one.

Now this Doberman is almost 10 months old, sleeps most of the nights in my bedroom (has left the crate) and she is just the sweetest dog in the neighbor: extremely socialized, extremely friendly with all small kids and with our visitors, very friendly with all other dogs even with some cats.

My question is: is it possible that I have over socialized her, so that she will not become a good guard dog? From some signs I would say no, for example we have changed our bell 3 times (!) and from the first day she knew that someone is coming (good sign) and was waiting in the door to greed him and/or play with him (not a good sign).
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One thing I have to say is that you must bear in mind you're dealing with a puppy here. At 10 months, she hasn't even entered adolescence, let alone become an adult. Puppies don't guard anything. And through her formative months and years, you want her world to be as happy as possible. You want her to fear nothing and experience no trauma. This is the ideal way to raise a stable dog, and a guard dog is nothing if not stable.

If I were you, I wouldn't worry about the guard instinct for now. Continue the socialisation process and don't try to keep her from interacting positively with strangers and visitors. I've witnessed so many people try to "under-socialise" their dogs so that they become good guards. What they usually end up with is a dog that will bark and growl from afar, but tremble and pee behind its owner's legs once a stranger actually approaches.

Can I just ask what your "ideal situation" is for the dog? I'm not jumping down your throat, I'm just asking what your eventual expectations are for this dog. When my dogs hear or see someone coming, they start barking, but are expected to be quiet on cue, be friendly to strangers who visit and are certainly not expected to growl or attack. Is this what you are aiming for? Or are you hoping for anything less/more?
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I understand, but what kind of guarding ability are you hoping this dog will have? Do you want the dog to give one bark when she hears someone coming? Bark incessantly until she is told to stop? Or do you want her to actually attack intruders?
Frankly I wouldn't expect an attack from any dog, even a Dobe, unless it has been professionally trained in bite work. Leaving a dog to judge what constitutes a threat, and act upon that judgement, is leaving a HUGE liability in your hands and is a disaster waiting to happen.

My advice: Keep your alarm on anytime you leave the house or are asleep. Train your dog to bark when she hears someone approaching, but nothing more. That, or find a professional trainer to train your dog for protection.
Your dog cannot distinguish a visitor from a person with bad intentions. As much as we would all like to think that dogs have a sixth sense about who is a robber and who is just a friendly guy climbing the fence to retrieve his kid's ball... they don't.

If your dog attacks an armed burglar, she MAY be let off the hook. Notice I said "may". There have been cases in which the criminal sues and wins. If your dog attacks a friendly neighbour, she will be put down. And if you leave it up to your dog to decide who has malicious intentions and who doesn't, she has an equal chance of doing either of those things. Dogs do not innately "know" who is friendly and who is not.

In other words, if your dog feels like it's her job to decide who an intruder is, and attack that person, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble.

Better to train your dog to alert you with a bark when there is a stranger approaching or in the house. Then, YOU decide if the stranger is harmful or not, and act accordingly.
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I don't know if I entirely agree. I posted the story on here a few days ago about my cocker spaniel growling at the crazy guy who was off his meds. He didn't growl at any of my neighbors, just the crazy guy.
You'd be really surprised. Most of the time, dogs can sense when things are out of the ordinary not because of a sixth sense, but just because of how amplified their existing five senses are. For example, Honey is wary of mentally retarded people (a socialisation oversight on my part). To us, they look the same, but to dogs, their silhouette is different, their gait is different, their subtle gestures and sounds are different and so there's no reason for them to believe that they are the same "creature" as you or I.

Spunky has growled at a strange man on our property at night, scaring him off, but I'm under no impression that she can see "dangerous" or "safe" auras surrounding people, which many people believe dogs have the mystical ability to do. I think it's far more likely that she smelled an unfamiliar scent in the yard at night, unprecedented by a doorbell -- something unusual, rather than inherently dangerous -- and became personally wary of it, rather than defensive of me or the property. If it had been my best friend walking through the yard at night, chances are she would have reacted the same way.

Have you read Stanley Coren's "How Dogs Think"? It's a really good book which contains a lot more information on what really goes on behind a dog's supposed "sixth sense".
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Thanks for clarifying this Zr., Pai and rosemaryninja. I was under kind of different opinion.

My Doberman will be 10 months old shortly. Do I have to continue socialization? Or the dog is settle now and just needs "maintenance"?

Finally can I play her with ropes? I pull the one end and the dog the other.

Socialisation is ongoing. You do not have to be as comprehensive as you were about it during puppy days -- that is, you don't have to actively bring her everywhere and think of different things to expose her to -- but you should keep up the interaction with other humans and dogs, as far as possible.
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