Socializing A Dog – The Facts About Dog Interaction
Don’t Expect Your Dog To Like Every Dog It Meets
Socializing a dog is full of misconceptions. One of the things we hear most about dogs is that they should be well socialized. For most people, this means getting them to interact with other dogs as often as possible. I actually heard one dog trainer state that dogs should get along “like one big, happy family…” Now, I don’t know your family, but there are members of my own that I am quite happy to never see again. In fact, family occasions are times when, rather than everyone getting together to enjoy each other’s company, the reality can be a bit more stressful. Sometimes, family is to be tolerated rather than enjoyed. Everyone has an embarrassing uncle it seems…
If we look at canines in Nature, a pack keeps itself to itself unless the need to hunt means they encroach on another pack’s territory. This can lead to problems as they could see each other as threats to survival. N.B. Humans are no different as we can easily see in history and current events.
Not All Dogs See Others As Potential Playmates
The reality of socializing a dog that we often stick them all together in one small space (incredibly small by their standards) and a place like the dog park is no exception. There are some dogs that – due to their personality – see other dogs not as potential playmates but as potential problems. Other dogs bound up to them without thinking and occasionally this can lead to an incident.
Be Careful And Don’t Expect Dogs To Be Instant Friends
The idea therefore is to firstly have our dogs tolerate each other rather than become instant friends. If you are going to take your dog to a social gathering, start at a safe distance and see how your dog reacts as well as the others present. If you think that they are well-behaved enough then maybe they can interact. Just letting go and hoping that they will “sort it out among themselves” can lead to a lot of problems, especially as we have created breeds of dogs that vary greatly in size. A Great Dane can easily do serious damage to a Chihuahua simply by picking it up and shaking it (and vice versa if the Chihuahua gets stuck in the Great Dane’s throat!).
Of course, dogs get excited and play. That is fine and should be encouraged. However, keep an eye out for the ones who refuse to join in or – even worse – physically dominate the other dogs in what it sees as its territory.
All Dogs Should Be On A Lead Initially
Ideally, starting with all the dogs on lead and giving them time (and space) to settle down a bit is the way to go. However, if you can’t do that, then play safe. This is particularly true if you are looking after someone else’s dog! Having to tell the owner that you’ve broken their beloved pooch is not something anyone wants to do. Chances are that your very best friend in the whole world did not get that position immediately.
True Friendships Take Time
True friendships are built over time, while acquaintances come and go. If you would like your dog to make friends, give them time. Being socially acceptable and tolerant to other dogs is the first step. Giving yourself time and space allows this to happen (plus it lets you check out what the other dogs are like – not everyone else is as well-behaved as yours!).
©Tony Knight 2020