Pro Tips: Introducing the Concept of Primordial Socialization

Socialization is not an all-or-nothing thing. There are types and degrees of socialization, all important for the growth and maturation of the dog (see infographic).

However, it’s crucial to remember that there needs to be a healthy relationship foundation between human and dog before we socialize in the traditional sense of the word. This is what I call foundational socialization.

When we have a healthy relationship foundation, dogs trust that the people, animals, and things to which they’re being exposed are safe. When we have a budding bond with our dogs, i.e. relationship material, they understandably become more open to the challenges and experiences we’re showing them.

This foundational socialization and temporary delaying of the other levels of socialization minimize the likelihood of the dog having negative reactions to things. Premature exposure to things can result in negative reactions, not because those things are inherently negative to the dog, but simply because the dog does not yet trust the humans showing the dog those things.

That’s why it’s essential we keep it simple at the start. It’s why I keep going back to foundations and the decompression that takes place in those early days, weeks, and months. This allows for that one-on-one interaction and foundational socialization to happen, without competing sources of attention. If you forged ahead with socializing your dog with insufficient foundations and you can see now how excessive this all was, you can go back to foundational socialization and work your way back up.

My clients often ask how long this stage lasts. The answer is that it depends on a host of factors – the dog and its background, the current home and family situation, and I would say especially the attitude of the handlers. Dogs come around faster and begin to show readiness for more when the humans are detached and not in a hurry. Still, it takes time to build healthy foundations so let’s not rush.

One last thing to note is that people are not necessarily going to understand the approach you’re taking. You might face some opposition, or even outright criticism. At best, expect some bewilderment bordering on guilt-tripping as to why you’re not out there socializing your pup with everything under the sun. Be prepared and stand your ground without necessarily entering philosophical debates. Time will tell the tale. Your dog will ultimately show that you did the job right.