Part 2: Puppy Socialization vs. Flooding
A lot of people think they are socializing their puppy, when instead they are doing what we call “flooding.”
Flooding is a term that describes changing a dog’s behavior toward a certain stimulus by totally inundating him with that stimulus.
It has many applications, but here are a couple of examples. Please do not try any of these on your own! Please consult a dog trainer. We are dog trainers who are local to Austin, TX and we specialize in puppy socialization. When you are ready to do this with the best, let us know here!
Ex. 1: Resource Guarding - This golden retriever is the sweetest, best dog his owners have ever had, but for one thing. He will attack any dog that comes near his tennis ball.
Otherwise, he’s great with other dogs! A trainer might alter this dog’s perceptions by placing that dog in a yard with other dogs in a yard, and then dumping 200 tennis balls in. The golden retriever is swamped with so many balls, and he can’t even begin to try to guard them all from the other dogs. The tennis balls lose the “trigger” effect when the dog gets enough experience with this. (Don’t try this on your own!!!)
Ex. 2: Fright Response You take your puppy to the hardware store and place him in the cart. He is scared of the cart, but you jump right into rolling it around and shopping. The puppy either gets over his uncertainty, or dwells deep in it and sinks into fear and helplessness throughout this experience. At that same hardware store, a dog is scared of the sliding automatic doors. His owner stands with his dog right next to those doors as they open and close over and over and over. The dog can’t escape the situation, and so must come to grips with the fact that the doors aren’t… actually… killing him. (I don’t recommend this technique, but it is something that happens.)
Ex. 3 Dog on Dog Interactions Dog owners do this a LOT without realizing it! Without having properly socialized their dog beforehand, they take their dog to a dog park and throw him in with a bunch of new dogs. No criteria, control, or gradual introduction. This is flooding!
And sometimes it works out fine, other times it doesn’t. Trainers sometimes do this as well in their play groups, but have means of control and criteria. Large dog groups can be a great way for a dog with dog-on-dog behavioral issues to learn proper socializing techniques, but this isn’t appropriate for puppies. In fact, I recommend staying away from the typical dog park altogether. There are better options! Flooding is NOT an appropriate approach for young puppies!
To read more about How to Socialize Your Puppy for the Best Results, click here to read our article about How Puppy Socialization is Different from Flooding Your Puppy.
To read Part 1 of How Do I Socialize My Puppy, click here