The 7 1/2 Mistakes You Should Never Make When Socializing Your Dog

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dog training, puppy training, socializing dogs

Socializing your dog with other dogs is tricky!

If you don’t do it right, you could be speeding down the road to your vet hospital to have him stitched up!

It isn’t rocket science, but there are some common mistakes that people make that set their dogs up for failure and put them at risk!

Read and share this list to make sure you and your friends aren’t making these mistakes.

Here Are the Top 7 1/2 Mistakes People Make When Socializing Their Dog:

1. You Don’t Know Your Dog

I know that sounds silly, but you would be surprised how many people get a new dog, and after a few days, pack him up and take him to the dog park.

They notice the dog has a lot of energy and so their default idea is to take that dog somewhere to play.

The problem is that not all dogs like to socialize and play with other dogs.

Even fewer dogs like playing in big groups of dogs they don’t know.

I suppose it would be like taking an introvert to a dance/nightclub and turning them loose.

Some people are social with everything, and some people are quieter and prefer a few close friends.

Get to know which your dog is before you stress him out by turning him loose with dogs he might have a conflict with.

2. Your Dog is Giving Mixed Signals

This is another BIG mistake!

I can’t tell you how many people tell me how much their dog typically likes ALL dogs, except for the exception and then the dog is barking, and lunging, and pinning dogs at the dog park.

On occasion, these owners admit that their dog has sent a dog or two to the vet to be stitched up. Yet, they are adamant that their dog LOVES the dog park and gets along with most dogs.

It always kind of stands the hair up on the back of my training, puppy training, socializing dogs

Would I want to let MY dog play with that dog?

Would you want to let YOUR dog play with that dog?

I mean, how can you tell which dog will be liked and which dog will be wounded?

If your dog is giving ANY mixed signals, GET HIM OUT OF THERE!!!

If he is scared, if he is aggressive, he is giving you information that you need to take seriously.

And, if it happens more than once, chances are this situation is causing more harm than good, and your dog is learning bad behavior, or being traumatized.

Even though your dog can’t talk and tell you how scared he is, or how sharing, and other dogs in his face make him angry, he is trying to tell you the same thing through his behavior.


If he is giving you mixed signals, he isn’t comfortable all of the time, and perhaps you should find another way to exercise him.

3. You Force Your Dog

I can’t make it any more clear… not all dogs want to socialize with other dogs.

Some were never socialized when they were trained as young puppies, and they don’t understand, or never learned, doggy social behavior.

Others may have had bad experiences.

Some of us are just introverted and don’t like other people in our faces.

Just like I don’t want to be at a club or big party, your dog may not want to play with a lot of dogs.

Start by finding ONE dog that you know likes other dogs.

4. You Don’t Know the Other Dog

Dog parks are scary places!

Just like I mentioned before, too many people are taking dogs that they know are aggressive and have had numerous bites.

And, if that is not bad enough, the rest seem to just release their dog and never look up from their phone again.

Years ago, people used to play with their dogs and pay attention to their behaviors.

Back then, they would step in if their dog acted aggressively, or even bullied another dog.

Nowadays, no one even notices.

If you want your dog to socialize and play with another dog, you should find a friend or family member that has a social dog.

At the very least, you should find a GOOD daycare facility that is careful and knows about dog behavior and socialization. I prefer that these facilities have cameras so that you can make sure your dog is playing safely.

Otherwise, many places will just keep aggressive dogs or fearful dogs in their crate or run while not allowing them to play, and then lie and say they have played all day.

If you can see it with your own eyes, you will know if your dog can play appropriately.

5. The Other Dog is Giving Mixed Signals

Yes, this is just like the example above, except your dog’s life and safety is at stake.

If there is another dog at the park, at your friend’s house, or in daycare who is growling, or barking and lunging, or showing any aggressive behavior, pack your bags and get out.

dog training, puppy training, socializing dogs

Again, so many people ignore their dog’s bad or aggressive behavior.

You can’t expect someone else to care about YOUR dog’s safety.

If you are uncomfortable, leave.

You don’t have to explain it or say anything, just remember the aggressive dog is trying to give people information.

Take that information and keep your dog safe.

6. The Other Dog is Wearing a Correction Collar

Oh My Gosh!

This is one of my major pet peeves.

Dogs with choke chains on…

Dogs with prong collars on…

They should not be playing with other dogs.

Metal is strong.

And, dogs get caught in metal collars.

I have seen one dog accidentally bite another dog’s choke chain while playing and the tooth gets stuck.

Then the dog whose tooth is stuck, panics and tries to get away.

At this moment, he is likely about to choke out the dog wearing the collar.

Many times, these collars need to be cut off!

Don’t allow your dog to get stuck in another dog’s collar, and definitely, don’t leave a metal collar on your dog!

7. All the Other Dogs are Bigger

As much as I hate to say it, a small dog playing in a group of large dogs is at significant risk.

Even if, individually, the big dogs are good with small dogs in a group, that could change.

Dogs in a group become a pack.

And, “pack mentality” is a lot like “teenage mentality.”

A lone dog won’t do things that he will do in a group.

Just like a good teenager is likely to do things they wouldn’t normally do when they feel peer pressure.

dog training, puppy training, socializing dogs

And, small dogs can look like “prey.”

The dogs can’t help it.

In some ways, it is all about instinct.

If you have a small dog and a bunch of large dogs show up, I would recommend leaving.

All it takes is one moment when the pack decides to chase the small dog, and things can take a turn for the worst.

7 ½

Dogs don’t have to be social with other dogs to be good pets.

So many people think that they are bad owners, or their dogs are bad dogs, if the dog doesn’t PLAY with other dogs.

Nothing is further from the truth.

Not all dogs want to play.

We shouldn’t force dogs that don’t want to play, to play.

Instead, we can teach our dogs how to behave appropriately with other dogs by not engaging them but by being obedient and showing respectful behavior.

Both of my current dogs are not “players.”

However, both of them can be in large groups of other dogs.

They are obedient and show good behavior without the need or desire to “play.”

It doesn’t make them “less” of good family dogs or good pets because they don’t’ want to go to the dog park and play.

And, likewise, it didn’t make my playful dogs “better” dogs because they wanted to play.

Let your dog be who he is…

If he wants to play with every dog, let him.

If he doesn’t want to play, don’t force him.

It’s pretty simple.

As long as you show good behavior around other dogs, that is all that matters!

The long and the short of it… is that you shouldn’t force and you shouldn’t expose your dog to dogs you or a professional doesn’t know!

It isn’t worth it!

It is better to have a dog that is well behaved and respectful than a dog that is playful!

There are 71 Comments

  1. Aimee Burton says:

    Try a calming cap for car rides. Also a thunder shirt may help as well. It maybe a good idea to use a car harness and seat belt if he can’t ride in a crate. Teaching him to down and settle in the car through short rewarding training sessions while the car is parked should be helpful and settling him before he enters the car and before he exits as well will teach him the car is a place to be calm not over excited.


  2. Mary says:

    In my 30 years of owning dogs, I have never set foot in a dog park except once at 6 am when it was empty. My dogs have all been trained, well socialized, and have been titled in multiple areas: breed champions, rally, draft, obedience, agility. Some have been therapy dogs. They have all been crate trained and capable of accompanying me anywhere and behaving properly. Going to a dog park has nothing to do with proper socialization.


  3. Gail says:

    I have thought this for years…my dogs have never liked dog parks..I use to try to make them into a dog that does…to no avail. Ive even stopped walking my dog…one stupid person is all it takes to have a bad day. Dogs off leash..dogs let out of there houses to run amuck in the front yard…Not worth the risk of them coming after my dog. Ive axually turned and ran the other direction when spotting two dogs running out of a front door…scary stuff.


  4. Bobbie Busch says:

    Our little pup is very timid with other dogs. She will play with a few dogs that she is used to. Otherwise, she throws herself down like she is saying “don’t hurt me!” We don’t force it and she is getting better. Good tips!


  5. Suzanne Copher says:

    Exactly why I don’t take my dogs to dog parks anymore! Too many people who are clueless about the needs of their dogs and signals that they are uncomfortable.


  6. joe says:

    like children dogs have to be taught right from wrong. never yell at a dog use a stern voice and only give a command once. if repeated when training that is what they will learn to listen to. when the dog is being good and responding to a command praise and pet the dog just like a child. keep commands simple. i have found that a dog needs to understand the word “no”. I use this for any unwanted behavior. dogs do not know what a chair is and if you do not want the dog on the chair use”no” not get off the chair.


    Minette Reply:

    no is very general. I very rarely use such a general term. I like giving direction so instead I say “off” when my dogs jump on something or someone that they shouldn’t


  7. Pamela Dunson says:

    I have a dog that barks at my friends when they come over. They come over often. When we leave town these same friends dog sit. No problem. I just cannot figure out what the deal is.


  8. Vicki Reed says:

    I wish all dog parents could read this article. My son owns a daycare and boarding facility. He has been very successful in socializing dogs. Each dog must be comfortable with him before thery are introduced to dogs with similar personalities and activity levels. He explains to new clients each dog is different and not every dog can go directly into group play. Some dogs are not suited (age, health, unaltered, or personality) for group activities and are provided one on one time when boarding or staying for daycare.


  9. Venda says:

    Thank you. Well said and I totally agree.


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