Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dog Longevity Survey Part II: How Important is Socialization to Longevity?

To a varying degree, everybody who took the survey believes that socialization is important to longevity. I would love to know everybody's reasoning. What is yours?

What is socialization anyway?


The general belief, it seems, is that socialization is your dog meeting other dogs. Which is true to a degree but far from that simple.

Yes, socialization involves exposure to other dogs. Not just any exposure, though, it should be positive encounters. Why? Because socialization is about your dog making a positive association with other dogs. If the encounters are scary or unpleasant, the whole concept falls apart, doesn't it?

Photo Burst
In a way, the term socialization is misleading. It implies social interactions only. But it is much more than that. Proper socialization is about positive encounters not only with other dogs and people but also objects and situations.

Socialization is about teaching dogs that the many things that they encounter by living with us are okay and nothing to be afraid of. That goes for dogs, kids, men with beard, women with carriages, people in wheelchairs, people in funny hats, people with backpacks, traffic, elevators, thunder, fireworks, washing machines, umbrellas, doorbells ... All the things we take for granted can be strange, unnatural and scary to a dog.

We fear what we don't understand.


Fear is a negative emotional state triggered by the presence of a stimulus that has the potential to cause harm. That could be something your dog has learned is dangerous, or something your dog doesn't know it isn't. From survival point, if you don't know whether you should be scared of something or not, being scared is more likely to keep you alive and therefore to live and procreate.



Extremely important40.00%
Important46.67%
Somewhat important13.33%
Not important  0.00%
I don't know  0.00%
Other  0.00%


So what does socialization have to do with longevity?


There is the obvious, of course, which is pretty much the same as with training, and that is the immediate danger. Getting into a fight in a dog park, running away and other behaviors that can cause harm or injury.

Beyond that, though, it is about stress.


As people, we can consider haunted houses, scary movies, rollercoaster rides and other scary entertainment fun. But what if your whole life was a scary ride? What if you really had to live in a hunted house? Have you ever been camping and heard sounds in the bush you didn't know what they were? Did you get scared?

Dogs are not adrenaline junkies like some of us are. And many of them really do live in haunted houses in haunted towns from their perspective. That not only makes their lives a living hell but chronic stress is absolutely not conducive to longevity.

Image Movie Pilot


Related articles:
Dog Longevity Survey Part I
Dog Longevity Survey Part II
Dog Longevity Survey Part I Results
How Important Is Weight Management for Longevity?

24 comments

  1. My reasoning behind responding that socialization is extremely important to longevity is about what you laid out here. That dog in the neighborhood that barks all alone in the yard, night and day- it's stressed! That dog will likely not live as long and healthy a life as my dogs, who consider any experience by my side as a fun, positive adventure! And if any of my dogs aren't having fun? We view it as a training opportunity. We work on positive desensitization and there are LOTS of treats. A stress free, well socialized (and I don't mean the dog park- I mean play dates with dog friends, elevator rides, visiting children, walking with people with umbrellas, walking on grated stairways, etc) life is a good (and hopefully long) life!

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    1. Thank you for elaborating; I was quite curious. Yes, such chronic stress is not conducive to a long, let alone happy, life.

      Proper socialization can make a huge difference in how dogs feel about the world around them.

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  2. This makes a lot of sense to me. When my old dog lola got to be 7 or 8 she was really slowing down, and I think when I got a new puppy it perked her up! She had someone to play with and we had more reasons to go to the park and see other dogs too. It had a great effect on her life.

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    1. Yes, there seems to be a lot of anecdotal evidence showing that older dogs perk up and live longer having a younger house mate.

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    2. I agree that socialization affects their how long they will live. When I was a kid, we had an older puppy get killed by a car when he ran away from some people walking on the sidewalk since he was afraid of strangers. Poor Rexy.
      I'm wondering about the last comment about an older dog and a younger one. I'm down to one dog now and she seems content on her own, although I've been debating about getting a puppy.

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    3. Extreme example but yes, it can happen. The more at peace a dog is with their surroundings, the safer they are. And then there is the chronic stress on top of that.

      I do believe, and have seen, the positive influence of a younger mate for an older dog. Naturally, depends on an individual dog and the quality of the match. Every time we were picking a second dog, we let the existing one pick/decide. Important. Test the waters, see how your dog responds to puppies, older young dogs ... naturally you want one that is easy going and not too much "in your face."

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  3. I have to say I LOVE that movie pilot you have here, it's so funny - scary, funny of course! I think socialization is good for health because it can reduce stress and stress causes all kinds of bad hormones to be released. Stress is unhealthy for the body, especially continued stress. I love socializing my dogs because it helps them enjoy life more, both at home and in the outside world.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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    1. HAHA, I found it with my own little hands :-)

      Yes, absolutely; the less stress the longer, happier life.

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  4. What an interesting read! We have a 16+ yo dog (rescued so not sure exact age) and he is not into other dogs. He gets along fine with them, but would prefer to be around people. But with that said, when we found a stray kitten (who is now 7 yo), he enjoyed interacting with him. He was actually recovering from his third back surgery, and the kitten helped him through it. So, even inter-species socialization can help with longevity!

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    1. Aww, that is so lovely. Yes, it doesn't have to be the same species; many strong bonds can be formed with the least likely individuals. I wish him speedy recovery <3

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  5. I like your analogy of dogs living in haunted houses and chronic stress. Chronic stress effects all living things and is so connected with physical health and well being.

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    1. Can you just imagine living like that? And it is that way for so many of them.

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  6. My dog is now 19 years old, and I'm convinced that at least part of the reason is that he has always been around other animals and lots of people who are part of our "family." He loves to socialize!

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    1. It wounds like you're talking more about social interaction than socialization. But social interaction is extremely important as well.

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  7. Without socialisation your cat will not live as long as a much loved and socialised, family cat, I suspect, and I know that a socialised cat is a happy cat and (to my mind) will live longer due to lack of stress, pain and worry - thanks to its parents' care.

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    1. Yes, absolutely. Stress is the main thing shortening our lives these days; two- and four-legged alike.

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  8. Makes a lot of sense. Socialization helps all beings on many levels, and I can see how it could add to a dog's longevity.

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    1. Anybody who tried living in a horror house fully understands :-)

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  9. I've never really thought about how things like socialization and stress from not being socialized with things earlier in her life can affect the longevity of my dog's life. It makes so much sense now, if she were to get away and need help she would have problems trusting people to help her because she's often fearful of new people and I'm sure panting and shaking isn't going to help her heart out any if she's trying to prolong her life.

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    1. Yes, that's for sure. You can still work on these things; check out Donna Hill's youtube channel.

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  10. While my granddog Link does irritate my elder dog Lyla sometimes and she more or less avoids him I do think him being around has perked her up A LOT! She is more aware, and even though she acts like he is a pest, I see that tail wagging more often than not when he "irritates" her.

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    1. Even an annoying "sibling" is better than none :-)

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  11. This is an excellent post. All encounters with dogs and people should be set up for success. Sometimes, these encounters go all wrong despite our efforts... but they can be turned around with some desensitization, positive reinforcement and time. Socialization is at the top of my list.

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    1. The main key is the ratio between positive and negative experiences; it's important that the positive come first. After enough positive experiences with a phenomena, something going wrong gets chalked up to the particular circumstance.

      I don't remember which behaviorist said this but I loved the quote: "Compare it to encounters with men from the Moon. If you meet just one man from the Moon and he's an a-hole, you assume all men from the Moon are a-holes. If you mean a hundred men from the Moon and they are all cool, and then meet one who's an a-hole, you understand it was an individual thing of a-holeness."

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