SOCIALIZING what does it mean and how to do it properly!
As a breeder I struggle with explaining what I mean when I say this breed NEEDS socialization. People generally think of breeds such as golden retrievers and labs that love everyone and they buy an aussie hoping for the same personality. News Flash! Aussies have been bred for many years to be RESERVED with strangers. In order to get a social Aussie who is a great member of society you MUST do a LOT of socializing. It is a LOT of work. Aussies are not born as social butterflies, some blood lines will never be everyone's best friend. BUT there is a lot you can do to help your Aussie be the best socialized Aussie he can be.
So what are you going to do in your every day life? Walk the kids to school? Go to the dog park? Go to your parents or siblings homes to play with their dogs? Thats all great BUT that isn't nearly enough, not by a long shot. Those are things you are going to be doing anyway, it will all be a part of day to day life so it doesn't actually count as socializing. Socializing means introducing your puppy to things they won't see day to day.
Make a list of no less than 100 places, sounds, smells, people etc that you will not see at least once a week with your puppy. Try and put them in three categories, sight, sound, and touch. Some examples may be.....
people with facial hair
people with different skin colour
different ethnic backgrounds (cook with different spices so smell different to the dog)
emergency service sirens
shopping centers and shopping carts
school yards ( kids and bells)
grates in side walks
thunder and lightning
Socializing should be work. It should not come easy. It means leaving the familiar areas you frequent and going to new places to expose the puppy to new things.
As humans we see these things on TV and in movies and we often experience these things when the dog is not with us, like in the work environment. Then one day when the dog is with us we take for granted he will be comfortable and accepting of these types of things and are confused when he reacts to them. These are the types of things you need to work on. Working on them is a job. Every week you should be able to mark some of these things off of your socialization list, ideally every week your puppy should have experienced one new experience from each list: sight, sound and touch. If you go a week without marking something off the list, you are starting to slack in your socialization process. Put the chart on the wall, make copies for every member of the family and have the entire family work on getting the puppy out and socialized to things he isn't going to see day to day. If you find something he is unsure of, highlight that and make sure you work on it a lot and make it fun and positive so he can get over that anxiety.
If you think staying home and going to a friends house is going to be enough socializing, then you are setting yourself up for a very insecure dog who can not function in society. A dog that will bark, back away, become stressed, possibly stressed enough to bite! I can not stress enough that socializing an Aussie is a good amount of WORK!
Also just because your dog seems comfortable with the cat in your house it doesn't mean he will be ok with your neighbours cat in their house. The same stimulus in a different environment is a whole new equation for your dog to adjust to.
This is probably one of the toughest breeds when it comes to socializing, I am not even going to sugar coat it a little bit, they were bred to be reserved with strangers so they could be great farm dogs protecting the livestock for the farmer. That in turn makes it harder for them to adjust to city life. They need our constant help and guidance to accept all the hustle and bustle of city life and to learn to be good members of society.
If you need help with socialization ideas just let me know. I am happy to come up with many different ideas to help you socialize your Aussie.