How To Properly Socialize Your Dog
This is another subject full of myths and incorrect assumptions. Think about dogs meeting in the same way as humans meeting for the first time. Most of us would never bear hug a perfect stranger, normally we would shake hands introduce ourselves and let a friendship develop naturally. Allowing dogs to roughhouse without first getting to know each other creates a more obnoxious combative dog, much like what happens when a person isn’t taught proper social etiquette. The cautious way we meet new people has roots in prehistory, we wouldn’t know if that tribe is coming to war or trade with us, so we are naturally wary until the strangers prove themselves friendly. Now once trust has been earned then we begin to drop our guard, that’s why we can bear hug a friend but not a stranger. Dogs are more like us in that regard then they are dissimilar.
Think of correct socializing as teaching proper etiquette. Now of course it doesn’t mean that your dog can’t play with other dogs or has to be a statue in their presence. What we want is polite undemanding behavior around dogs and people. That means that our dog is not straining at the leash, trying to force an engagement or otherwise being impolite. We recommend correcting over a simple step toward the distraction as that keeps the dog from getting too wild/excited necessitating a stronger correction to regain composure. Unfamiliar dogs and people don’t even need to touch your dog for us to achieve proper socializing, so for those of us who want to enjoy a sunny day at the park without interacting with others no worries you can still socialize your dog.
Let’s talk briefly about how to introduce two dogs to each other for the first time. First off have the dogs meet in a unfamiliar neutral territory, this prevents the perception of an encroaching invader. Next insist that both dogs keep a loose leash as they politely walk by each other going in the opposite direction. Gradually decrease the distance between the dogs, getting close enough to be challenging but ultimately successful. Repeat this step multiple times in different environments before you attempt this on your property. Now after all this hard work start relaxing the rules slowly after you give a command like “Play”, allowing polite casual interest, then end the session with a command like “Enough”. Feel free to allow more and more rowdiness until you reach the desired level. It’s important that we give permission and that we can end the play session, it’s recommended to have a stop command just incase the dogs get too rowdy.
Dog Parks are a great place to exercise your pup but for a place to socialize we recommend a regular park or some other wide open space. Feel free to take your dog to the dog park but we recommend that you work on obedience before and after the doggie play session. It’s also a good idea to have a command like “Play” or “Wrestle” so that the dog doesn’t assume all dogs encountered can be wrestled with. Keep in mind that if you don’t want your dog to play with other dogs you don’t have to, there are plenty of other ways to exercise your dogs. The greatest thing about socializing is just spending time with your dog, so have fun, that’s the best part of having a dog.
– Josh Decker, Dog Trainer