The danger of familiarity

Posted on February 23rd, by Sean O'Shea in Training Tips. Comments Off on The danger of familiarity

Something that I think can stymie many owners and trainers, and can create dangerous situations for dogs and people, is familiarity.

Familiarity can create the illusion of transformation.

A dog-aggressive dog can often be slowly acclimated to a new dog or dogs and be totally cool. A human-aggressive dog can slowly be acclimated to new people and be totally safe. But that doesn’t mean that either of these dogs is now not dog-aggressive, or now not human-aggressive. It just means the dog has become comfortable with the new situation.

The same dog that could be trusted with familiar dogs could be turned loose in a yard with a very sweet dog and attack it. And the same dog that was living nicely with familiar people could have a new human walk into the house and attack him or her.

It’s so important that people understand this dynamic in order to prevent dangerous situations from occurring. You have to understand that just because a dog becomes familiar and safe in one context, doesn’t mean that that generalizes everywhere. Yes, with good training, rules, and structure, many of the mindset issues that create these problems in the first place can be tackled, and many in a generalized (meaning all contexts) fashion. But that by no means means every dog who has been acclimated to accept a previous trigger situation is transformed or “healed”.

The best approach is to always be vigilant and aware, to understand that a dog becoming comfortable with a very specific dog, dogs, human, or humans, isn’t necessarily all better. He or she MAY be all better, but moving slowly and always understanding the possible dangers with novel situations is the key to future safety.

P.S. Any questions about this dynamic and its ins and outs, please hit me up in the comments. Thanks!!

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