7 Dog Socializing Pitfalls to Avoid
People want their dogs to be social with other dogs.
No one wants a dog aggressive dog, or a dog that is simply hard to handle around other dogs.
But the truth is, that there are some socializing pitfalls that we owners need to address and understand prior to socialization.
#7 Waiting Till Adulthood
A lot of people get a puppy, and then life gets busy.
Sometimes these puppies don’t get the time and training they need!
And, let’s face it time moves pretty quickly so before we know it we aren’t looking at a puppy anymore; we have an adult dog!
It is much more difficult to socialize an adult dog than it is to socialize a puppy.
Social skills are a learned behavior.
Imagine locking a child away, never seeing another child or human until he is 21, do you think he would have appropriate social skills?
Puppies need to learn that there are other dogs in the world, and they also need to be taught appropriate manners with adult dogs and other puppies! Pouncing and jumping are not appropriate behaviors!
I teach my puppies manners (Sit, Down, and Impulse Control) first and then allow them to socialize with an adult dog that is respectable and caring with puppies.
This is crucial!
Don’t allow your puppy to play with any older dog! Not all older dogs like puppies and some will hurt puppies because puppies often lack the manners I was speaking of above.
I have an older dog that HATES puppies. She will tolerate older dogs, but finds puppies exhausting. She was actually attacked by a 6 week old puppy once, prior to that she was good with puppies.
Once your puppy learns how to socialize from a compassionate adult dog, it is time to find a puppy of equal size and personality.
#6 Puppy Class
I do want puppies to socialize, but I have seen some puppy group classes and socialization time go horribly wrong!
The idea is wonderful.
You take your puppy to puppy obedience class, work on skills for 45 minutes or so; and then let the puppies play for the last 15 minuets.
However I have seen big puppies pick on little puppies.
And, I have seen one puppy picked out and terrorized by all the other puppies in class.
Once this kind of bad experience happens to a young puppy, it is difficult if not impossible to reverse the damage.
Know your instructor and know the puppies in class before you ever agree to let puppies play.
Be cautious if your instructor doesn’t take into account size and age of puppies or break the group of for play.
Also, be cognizant if you are to just release puppies with no leashes.
Although leashes can cause some problems too; they are the only way owners can take faster control of a situation.
Whenever I introduce new dogs or new puppies, I keep them on leash (even if the leashes are just dragging) in case there is a problem or altercation I can gain control much faster.
#5 Dog Parks
I used to love dog parks.
You can actually find articles I have written about the joys of dog parks.
However in the past few years, I have found that dog parks have become dangerous.
People bring their adult, poorly socialized or dominant dog, often on a choke or prong collar and just let them loose.
Then they engage in social media, while paying little to no attention of what is going on with their dog.
They don’t watch them play, they don’t keep an eye out for signs of trouble they just want their dog to exercise themselves while they delve into the internet and games on their phones.
And, unfortunately, the tide of social dogs playing at the dog park has turned to people who want their slightly dog aggressive dog to get along with other dogs at the dog park.
Taking a dog that is dominant or has aggressive tendencies to a dog park is like walking around with a poorly engineered bomb and hoping it doesn’t go off.
I can’t tell you how many times over the past few months people have contacted me and admitted that their dog has bitten or attacked other dogs at the dog park; yet they still continue to bring those dogs to the park.
They think they are working on socialization, but really what they are doing is creating more of a bully and risking the health and lives of the other dogs at the park.
All it takes is 2 of these like-minded and dominant natured, poorly socialized dogs in one dog park to end in a sad tragedy.
#4 One Dog’s Territory
Another pitfall is owners who think they will just bring their dog to another dog’s home or yard.
Dogs can be territorial creatures.
In the wild, there would be packs of dogs that roamed certain areas (like wolves).
Bringing one dog into socialize with another, in its home, may not go as expected!
Think of it in human terms.
I can be more social when I am out and about, but when I am home, I like to relax.
I will also socialize with people out; that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with in my home.
If you want an introduction to go well, pick a neutral sight first.
#3 Immediate Introduction
Another way that socializing can go awry, is immediate introductions.
Not all dogs want another dog thrust up their face or their other body parts.
People often take dogs into a certain area and just unclick the leashes.
When there is no leash, there is no control.
Again, in human terms, I want to know a person before I allow them into my space or allow them to touch me.
I don’t like being touched by people I don’t know.
However, after I have spent some time with you and we have forged a friendship, hugging and spending time together seems natural.
Dogs can be the same way.
Taking the dogs that we want to get along together on controlled walks and allowing them to acclimate slowly is a much better approach.
I used to go running with a friend every morning.
Her dog was dog aggressive; and my dog is certainly stand offish.
We never allowed them into each other’s space or forced interaction.
Instead we would meet each other and keep our dogs well controlled in heel position as we walked and ran together.
After several weeks, her dog aggressive dog, actually enjoyed seeing my dog get out of the car and they were eventually allowed to greet and sniff on their own terms.
We never allowed them to “play” but they were able to control themselves around each other and truly enjoyed the friendship that they had forged.
Sometimes friendship doesn’t have to be “rough play”, it can just be a co-existence with obedience and mutual respect.
#2 Tight Leash
Tight leashes give our dogs the wrong impression.
We see another dog, and we reel our dogs in closer.
We may even get a little nervous that our dogs will bark, or lunge, or simply be out of control with friendly intent.
But the signal we are sending to our dogs is that we are scared.
And, if time after time we reel them in and act “scared” or angry every time there is another dog near; we are basically telling them that there is a reason to fear other dogs.
We are actually causing them to be reactive and possibly aggressive. For more on that click here
Forcing a Nonsocial Dog
Not all dogs want to be social.
Not all people want to be social with every person they meet or at any or every time.
By forcing a dog, that is lunging, growling, hackling, backing away or otherwise acting aggressive or fearful to engage in play you are risking a bite and serious injury.
When dogs show these signs they are trying to communicate with us what they are feeling and what is their intention. By ignoring them we are forcing them to take action.
And, often after one dog has bitten another dog successfully he is more likely to react the same way if given the opportunity.
Likewise after a dog has been attacked his behavior will often change to more fearful or even more aggressive behavior after the event.
I think it is important to listen to the things our dogs are trying to tell us; and to realize that not all dogs are or want to be social with other dogs! For more on that click here
So before you think about socializing your dog! Make sure you don’t fall prey to these 7 Pitfalls of Sociability!
Also, I’d highly encourage you to consider picking up a copy of Chet Womach’s Hands Off Dog Training formula, for a complete A-Z training plan to put your puppy on. This stage of your dog’s life is full of development. Its at this young time in their life that you can most easily program their personality, and keep them from ever developing annoying behavior problems. Don’t make the mistake of just thinking your dog will turn out to be well behaved WITHOUT a plan… it doesn’t work like that.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.