If you have had any thing to do with horses you would have heard the term ‘green’ in relation to an untrained and impulsive horse. On the opposite side, horses who are very trained and experienced are called School Masters or labelled as bombproof. The same terms can be used to describe dogs, a green dog needs boundaries and management before he can become a school master. Part one of this two-part series focuses on what a green dog is and how you can socialise them appropriately. Part two will focus on training the green dog.
Understanding what a green dog is and how to educate them will help you to help them be the best dog they can be.
Green dogs will often have the following characteristics.
- They will be (but not limited to) under three years of age
- They do not come back when called
- They are impulsive
- They forget about your presence
- They are often described as ‘hyper’ and obnoxious
- They find it difficult to calm themselves down
- They rush up to other dogs
- They do not respond to other dogs (or people’s) calming signals
The key point here is that your dog will be green until their third birthday. Many families are wonderful at starting training and socialisation when they bring their baby puppy home, things go nicely so handlers begin to relax, and one year later when poor behaviours are present the family is wondering what went wrong. Appropriate socialisation must continue throughout your dog’s life but most critically during their first three years.
We hear the message loud and clear that we must socialise our green dogs but what is left out of this message is the word ‘appropriate’. Not all socialisation is good, your green dog is always learning and they can just as easily learn poor behaviours as good ones. Unless you are working with a trainer, or very experienced yourself, it would be a mistake to allow a green dog to play with other green dogs.
Your green dog should interact with school masters. These dogs may seem like boring dogs who have nothing to offer, but dig a little deeper and you will notice that these dogs are socialisation gold. School masters are fluent in canine body language, have excellent impulse control, can give your green dog a good telling off if they get too hyper and they also know how to play by the rules. You cannot ask for a better teacher, humans cannot replicate lessons a school master can teach a green dog.
Seek out the school master at the off lead park when you are doing your off lead risk assessment and walk the park with them. If your dog hangs out with hooligans you’ll get hooligan behaviour.
Another socialisation trick you can use with your green dog is to keep moving at the dog park, do not stand still for too long. When there is no change in the environment green dogs find it difficult to moderate their arousal levels and inappropriate behaviours such as barking, humping, fighting, stealing and jumping occur. Keep moving with your green dog to keep the intensity between dogs low.
Socialisation and calm confidence go hand-in-hand. Never take your dogs confidence for granted, you should always carry fresh meaty food with you on a walk, as your dog becomes a school master this food can be a couple of dried liver treats. If you and your dog are presented with a potentially scary situation such as a noisy rubbish truck, scary looking people, aggressive dogs behind a fence or a noisy skateboard close by you should reward your dog for keeping his cool. Rewarding in this manner will keep your dog confident and composed and if it’s one thing all school masters have in common it’s cool confidence.
Appropriate socialisation is vital to educating your green dog, seek out positive socialisation opportunities and avoid situations where your green dog may practice inappropriate behaviours. It takes years to build a school master, be patient, be vigilant and give your dog every reason to be the best adult he can be.