As a professional dog trainer, I am very interested in the proper socialization of dogs so that they grow up to be friendly and confident dogs. Puppies in America that lack good puppy socialization and training may grow up to be fearful and potentially aggressive toward other dogs and/or people.
Currently, I am traveling in Thailand visiting the beach resort towns of Patong and Kata of Phukut Province, the Chalong Buddhist Temple as well as snorkeling and canoeing at nearby uninhabited islands in the Indian Ocean. In Patong and at the temple, there are many feral dogs.
These dogs are mostly medium to small size dogs of various mixed breeds who roam freely amongst the city and temple. They have done so probably since birth. Most cannot be identified as representing one particular breed or another. However, I did meet two dogs who did so; one a terrier mix and the other one a very small and cute German Shepherd dog mix.
What was interesting to see is that these dogs are well habituated to their environment. They appear very calm and relaxed amongst distractions such as visiting strangers, other dogs, cats, cars and motorbikes, etc. They peacefully relax in the mid day sun in peaceful harmony with other dogs and cats. They approach strangers with no fear, looking for food handouts.
As pictured above, I saw one dog who enjoyed being petted and that was by the monk who had befriended him. Just prior to taking their picture, I observed the monk playfully petting the dog who in response appeared to be smiling. However, most do not seek out nor want interaction with humans via petting. They keep their distance to avoid being touched but are not skid-dish as long as their sense of personal space is maintained.
The plus side is that the feral dogs have grown up to be confident dogs and live comfortably in the presence of humans. However, they do not seek companionship just a means to an end, to obtain food. So the feral dogs of Thailand have a different kind of socialization than what we expect of our pet dogs in America. For a puppy to grow up confidently and to be one that seeks companionship, it is crucial to socialize puppies at a very young age, between 3-16 weeks of age. After 16 weeks of age, it becomes increasingly more difficult to socialize a puppy to new environments and strangers.
For help, in properly socializing your puppy, seek an off leash puppy socializing and training class such as the one that starts January 11, 2012 in Plymouth, Michigan by Michigan Dog Trainer. Through proper socialization, you can have the best of both worlds, a confident dog and one who seeks out companionship.