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 neck.dog 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.

Please LISTEN TO YOUR DOG!!

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 50 Comments

  1. Janice Breaux says:

    You probably saved some dog’s life today. You are so “right on” with every point. I think a lot of the desire for taking the wrong dog personality to the dog park is too much pride in our dog. We want to show off. The advice you gave cannot be emphasized enough. THANK YOU!!!

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  2. Tina Kukelka says:

    All makes total simple sense.
    Very helpful.
    Thanx

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  3. Janet Darke says:

    Good advice, especially No. 7 1/2! Common sense should prevail.

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  4. I breed, show and raise standard poodles and train my dogs to be well mannered and start out my baby puppies by socializing them with people, small children in particular and friendly dogs that belong to friends. Poodles have a strong prey instinct and I have had to deal with that, they also can show aggressive behavior when meeting a dog on lead at a distance. That being said they are fine with dogs in tight situations like the waiting room at the vet etc.
    Reading your 7 1/2 rules of socialization made me more aware of some facts and I learned more about socialization. Saying it is okay that your dog doesn’t enjoy playing with dogs opened my eyes to the fact that it not necessary. I am terrified of dog parks and do not take my dogs to them. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with everyone.

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  5. Tricia says:

    My dog is a small dog ..he got 2 buddies and don’t like other dogs big or small. .I can’t get him to come if he runs of ..food or treats don’t work can you advise pls

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  6. Patricia Kunkel says:

    Do you travel to different cities to give instructional shows?

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    Minette Reply:

    I might consider it 😉

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  7. Anne says:

    This was very good. My dog has leash reactivity. I have learned how to deal with it positively – not forcing, keeping distance etc and she’s improving.
    All your tips here were very helpful – especially accepting your dog’s personality and teaching good behavior

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  8. MaryLou says:

    Thank you for this article. I have an Australian shepherd-blue healer mix who loves to go to the dog park but when we get there he just wanders around sniffing the other dogs but not running with the pack. I decided to let him just wander and do his thing so I am happy to know my instincts were correct. He returns to chech up on me and then continues his wanderings. I love my dog!

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  9. Beverly Bauer says:

    I love this perspective. It makes total sense to me. We have always had Westies…..sweet and laid back. Now we have a Parson Russell. We’re dealing with a totally different personality and energy level. This article is extremely helpful. Thank you.

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  10. Thanks for all this good advise. I truly hope people take it to heart, for their dogs sake. Our Pepe puppy doesnt do well at dog parks. He’s pretty good most of the time with a one on one but still deals with fear aggression.
    I keep our min white schnauzer safe first, period ❤

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  11. Pauletta Goldey says:

    Sorry forgot to mention Mack is a 5 yr old Yorkshire terrier and Poodle mix. Found him in a bag in individual dumpster at curbside waiting on trash truck to pick him up with the rest of trash.

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  12. Ron says:

    Do you have any advice for a dog that seems to be scared of everything? She’s a 5 year old boxer we’ve had her since 8 weeks old gradually getting worse doesn’t want to take long walks anymore etc any suggestions?

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    Minette Reply:

    sometimes doggy valium and behavior modification together work well for fears. We also have a fear program you should look into

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  13. Joanne says:

    Great common sense!
    Happy to see it published!

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  14. DeeDe Baker says:

    Sharing every one of these with my veterans!

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  15. Dalony Cutting says:

    My 1 yr old ,7lb Shih Tzu LONGS to meet and play with every dog that passes by on leash…but is so excited he puts them by all his jumping . He knows to go sniff the other dogs rear…but still scares them with his exhuberance. HOW CAN I TEACH HIM to be calmer and politely meet other dogs?

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  16. Mary Ann Packer says:

    Great guidelines for my Zuchon. He s just a year and is my Emontional Support dog.

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  17. Joan Nicholson says:

    We are visiting my daughter whose Standardpoodle is 18 months old and 15 lbs heavier than my poodle. She loves to play, but he plays too rough and frightens her. She growls, shows teeth, but he just keeps on coming at her. She has never bitten him, but sounds like she is ferocious. He is undaunted, so she seeks my husbands lap. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

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    Minette Reply:

    I would put them on leash and teach them appropriate behavior around one another. Again, sociability isn’t always about play sometimes it is more about obedience

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  18. Kit says:

    I really like this article. My dog is extremely fearful of dog parks so I don’t make him go. He is a wonderful family dog and companion and great with kids. When he is off leash on a trail, he stays within sight and checks back with us constantly during is grand adventure with running and smells. Other dogs seem to just want to pick on him though, so for his well being, I don’t force him to “play”. Thanks for letting us know that even experienced trainers think this is OK.

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  19. Marjoleintje Alexis Hattan says:

    Excellent info!
    I need help with my golden retriever. She loves to get in car but barks and jumps from window to window. Tried meds, soft crate, soft voice, driving slow, covering windows and nothing works. Help

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  20. Linda 70 says:

    This was so helpful! I have had 7 dogs, all of whom were “players” with other dogs. Then Jason came along. Now I can relax and realize it’s ok for him to watch others play without having to engage and me feeling I did something wrong. Guess he’s more of a thinker than a doer.

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  21. Kara O says:

    wow #7 is fantastic advice! something I always said. Thank you!

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  22. Wanda Shell says:

    Yes I would love to know how to train my German Shepherd puppy he about 10.mos old. He jumps on me all the time and scrapes he teeth across my hand. I have tried everything…..thank you

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  23. Vicki Talbot says:

    Excellent article! I am going to save it to share with my clients. (I teach dog training classes). I often try to explain my bias against dog parks, but you have summarized the problems so much better than I ever could. Thanks so much!

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  24. Joan Boase says:

    I have a 3 1/2 year old rescue dog. On weekly hikes with 15 other dogs (off leash) and lots of people, she just runs, plays, and gets along with everyone. She has several favourite dogs she loves to play with.
    However, walking on our (very quiet) street, on leash, she sometimes is aggressive even with dogs she has formerly liked!
    Any insight would be very welcome! Joan B

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  25. Toni says:

    When I take my dog to the groomer there are maybe several really big dogs some smaller all loose walking around. They keep him all day, and have been grooming him for 15 years. But when I get there he does not want to go in. Should I find a new groomer?

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    Minette Reply:

    I might try it, i hear good things about mobile groomers in our area

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  26. Cindy says:

    Good advice. We have 2 dogs, 1 who is very social with other dogs & people. The other 1 loves people, but other dogs, not so much. When walking them, if we see another dog coming towards us, we cross the street or try to keep as much space as possible between us. I make them both sit & stay while telling the reactive dog to be calm. He has gotten much better, but I still prefer not to put him in a situation where he might be ready to start something that no one wants to deal with.
    I hate it when people say that their dog never starts anything and let them run right up to another dog, theirs might not, but yours might.

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  27. Sybil Smith says:

    Thank you for that. As an introvert myself, I thought my dogs, as dogs, would all be extroverts and something was wrong if they weren’t. Now I can accept them as they are. Some enjoy the dog park. The others like to be there just with their own family, and me!

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  28. Susan pomeranz says:

    So grateful for your dog knowledge
    I have a small jack Russell who is 1 I just adopted her. She is difficult and wonderful
    I need help with training her
    Love to here
    Susan

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  29. Helen-Mary Black says:

    Good advice. I have a miniature dashound and I take it to the local park. This is third dachshund I have had. I am always wary of big dogs. People seem to let them loose and don’t worry if they are invading my space. I make sure I avoid them. As I am getting older I keep my dog on the lead more, so I have more ability to control the situation.
    Until I read this article I thought I was neurotic.

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  30. Sara says:

    My recent rescue Bulldog, Kadi, used to be the greeeter dog for the rescue site. After a year with my older Pitt Lab, the older lady, Lakota, started snarling at Kadi, which ended up with Lakota going to the vet. My girls have been separated since….why would their dog behaviors change? Is it due to the fact Kadi knows she’s the hot young thing in the house and Lakota knows it but still demanded respect? They kiss and clean each other’s faces they the outside gate and when it’s super hot, an interior gate in the house is between them…

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  31. Carole says:

    I have an 8 month old pointer mix. She is a rescue. I have introduced her to my friend’s dogs and she is fine but also keep in mind, these other 2 dogs are very calm and mild tempered. However, when we are on a walk and she sees another dog she barks, pulls and just get crazy. I am working on keeping her calm. Any suggestions/

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    Minette Reply:

    I would look into our ultimate k9 companion course

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  32. Becca Selman says:

    My advise would be to desperate them with a leash in an open space. Make sure they have their needs met. Food , water, been walked recently. Place on leash but don’t let them greet each other, the person walking them should be keeping their attention with treats and praise. walk side by-by-side at a ten foot distance. Slowly bring together. Humans ideally being in the center. Do this until they can walk without engaging each other. Then let why one off to play. Use loose leash with forceful one and walk away if starts to play too rough. Always start forceful one with leash and walk away from shy pup until the play becomes mutual and reengage the leash if the forceful/rough play starts.20 plus years with forceful pups. Trial and error and patience. If it does not work, keep trying and keep in mind they may never play amongst each other well but keep working at it.

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  33. Wanda Altmayer says:

    We had two whippets and thought going to a dog park was a good idea. Other dog owners were fearful of our crew because whippet play is quite different from other dogs. They scream, yelp, holler, bark (usually for more play), play bite, grabbing each other by the face and head, gnashing of teeth, pounding each other to the ground, holding each other down, chest bumping, jumping on each other. It does look like a real fight, but it is normal for them. So, to keep the peace,. When a German Shepphard runs away from them it is because they don’t understand, and their owners don’t understand either. We accept that our dogs cannot play with other breeds and out of respect for everyone, we no longer go to the parks.

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  34. Carol Byrne says:

    If you don’t socialize your dog how are you ever going to be able to go away and leave him at a dog daycare or kennel

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    Minette Reply:

    I don’t use kennels or trust other people with the socialization of my dogs.

    Don’t get me wrong, my dogs go to many doggy events but socialization and play are not the same thing.

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  35. Vi says:

    I have two dogs, benji a Norwich terrier and wahi-e a yorkie terrier.
    Benji was here first, he growls and shows his teeth attacking but not biting. Now wahl-e is doing the same attacking benji. Benji attacks when Wahl-ecomes near me or over treats.I don’t know what to do need your help.

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    Minette Reply:

    I would seek the help of a veterinary behaviorist so that they can witness some of the behaviors between them

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  36. Brenda says:

    My teacup poodle backs at anyone wearing dark sunglasses, otherwise he is calm and wants people to pet and love him. Any suggestions re, how to stop this? I ask people with dark glasses if we can approach and they pet him and he is calm , but the same reaction happens with the next person wearing dark sun glasses. I dont know what to do to correct this.

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  37. Brenda Moore says:

    Thank you for saying you’re not a bad dog parent for not letting you puppy play with other dogs!! So many times I have read how socializing your dog is at utmost importance. My poodle hated other dogs and preferred her human playmates way more. My new puppy loves other dogs but I am picky who he can play with.

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  38. Vi says:

    Thanks for answering my problem. I will find a person(vet) to show me how to handle this situation.

    Thanks Vi

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  39. Kat says:

    try Rescue Remedy….the company that makes Thunder Shirts now has a calming pheromone ,not sure of the name,,but reviews are great…,, take her to new areas where there aren’t a lot of dogs or distractions…Try not to baby her..even traumatised dogs can recover…Dogs react to our energy! Try getting a friend to walk her..see if there’s a difference.Im a trainer ,Ive seen this many times! Don’t feel sorry for her and dwell on her..Just GO for a nice walk!!!

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  40. Linda says:

    I know my 2 dogs don’t like the chaos energy of dog parks, lots of out of control dogs there. They are happy as clams if dogs are balanced whether playing or quiet activity and merge right in. It always blows my mind that people don’t take action and correct their dog’s behaviour. When did “No” become a bad word?

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  41. Karen Holshouser says:

    Yes please help me also with that problem. My little dog will run away if he gets out of the house. He won’t come back for anything. He doesn’t know where he is going either. What can I do about that?

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  42. Andrew says:

    Our Cavalier King Charles shies away from dog parks, and although we would love to see him play with another friendly dog, we have never pushed him. Small dogs can be some of the meanest. He likes to greet other dogs while out on walks, but had to learn the hard way that not every other dog wants to greet him.

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