7 Dog Socializing Pitfalls to Avoid

English BulldogPeople 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.dogs digging a hole

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

DogsAnother 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.


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  1. Liz says:

    My puppy is the smallest guy in puppy class (only b/c of his age, he will be bigger soon) and he is often the one all the bigger pups lay it on. He seems to enjoy the play time though and gets really excited when we arrive at the vet (where the classes are held) … Should I be worried that the other dogs pounce on him if he doesn’t seem hurt or scared?


    Minette Reply:

    This is hard to answer because you have to think in hypotheticals…. Are all puppies that are small traumatized? NO

    But unfortunately all it takes is ONCE for one of the bigger guys to hurt your little one.

    Also I wonder if they aren’t going to cause him to want to bully bigger dogs because he has to fight so hard at this age to be equal… which also is not a good learned behavior.

    Ultimately it is up to you


  2. Jesse says:

    Hi Minette,

    My 9 month 85+ pound GSD doesn’t like big dogs getting close to me at the park (very protective ever since a stray dog approached us once while out walking), and I’d been hesitant to take him to the park by our house because of his mean bark that freaks other dog owners out. However, I read your post about how I was holding the leash and decided to try some of your suggestions. Today, I started with him already tired from playing, and we just kept jogging any time we saw a dog coming our way at the park. It worked perfectly! The only time he barked the whole time was when we were taking a break, and another GSD came our way while my boy was in a down. But as soon as I told him “no” and “leave it” and started moving again, he ignored the dog! Thank you so much for all your wonderful posts! I’ve tried so many of your suggestions, and Ghost has just been getting better and better! By the way, the “leave it” success is thanks to your post too!! (He’s a sock thief who likes to just drop our socks under the kitchen table – won’t chew them or anything – just likes to take them and leave them. He stole one of my mom’s socks from her suitcase when she came to visit, and we didn’t know until we saw it under the table – we’re still working on that one)


  3. Laura says:

    Hi! I’m having a huge conflict with socializing my puppies (yes puppies.. I know I know but my dad brought home two litter mate dobermans and I just wasn’t in a position to say no even though I’d already told him to only get one). They’ve only been with us one week and it’s already been extremely exhausting and way more than I had signed up for. I’m honestly extremely concerned as to what I’ll do once my semester rolls in in two weeks but we’re figuring out ways to improve day by day. My concern is that everywhere I read highlights the importance of socializing them this month over and over again yet I’m still working through basic manners training. I want to slow it down and take it step by step but I also feel pressured to introduce them to all sorts of people and dogs and places. Am I really truly doomed to a lifetime of aggression if I slow it down this month?
    Thanks for your articles, they’re priceless.


    Minette Reply:

    Yes and no.

    Puppies need to experience things in a postive way when they are young. Lack of sociability can cause aggression and fear.

    Just like we teach children when they are young, because their brains learn better (teaching a child a second language is so much easier than teaching an adult) so it goes for dogs.

    If they don’t learn early, their intelligence and confidence can be affected.


  4. Sandra Bryant says:

    My eight month old female gsd was attacked at three months old by a grown gsd. Her leg was broken and she spent her entire puppyhood recuperating in her crate with no socialization except vet visits. Now she is healed but fearful and barks at all people and dogs. How do I approach her training now?


    Minette Reply:

    I would look into our Ultimate K9 companion course for the obedience training that she needs. After completing that and getting her obedience reliable, I would find a class in your area where you can take her and proof her obedience and confidence around other dogs.


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