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Socialized OR Social Loon

by Michelle St Germain on 09/18/12

     There is a fine line between the socialized canine and the socially inept canine.  There is a time and a place for proper socialization or at the very least there should be.  We should want to teach our dogs young or old that being friendly is the most desirable behaviour we want.  We should also want to teach them when and how to be social.  This is something that I think has merged into one!  It is a misconception that each and every outing should be filled with greeting after greeting with people and other dogs.  We then are perplexed on why our dog has absolutly no manners when out on a walk. 

     There is a time and a place for these socialization interactions to take place.  First off, it is always better if there are no leashes attached to dogs that are meeting for the first time.  This cannot be done when you are on a walk, so why do we continue to do it.  Let our dog run into the space of other dogs on leashes.  There is an argument or fight waiting to happen.  I love the "He just wants to say hello to your dog" as he is dragging the owner down the street towards me.  When their dog gets a growl back, they look at you as if you own the meanest dog around.  I shake my head...Do you say hello to a perfect stranger that way, run into their personal space....be lucky if it is just a growl you get.... 

Who would love to own a dog who when you are out for a walk sees another dog and calmly walks past???...  I do, I do, I do!!!  What a pleasant experience it would be not to have to roll up the leash as tight as a noose, curse & swear at the dog & participate in the WWE wrestling match on each outing.  How about not having to have excuses for your dog's barking and lunging at other dogs?  Dosn't that sound blissful?  This can all be accomplished by changing a few key elements of your daily walk ritual.  Here they are:

  • Walking is for walking NOT direct contact socialization. 
  • Where there are leashes there are MANNERS.
  • OFF LEASH is BEST for social interactions.
  • running into another dog's personal space is NEVER ok.  This is considered INTRUSIVE and RUDE amoung dogs.  This can result in a negative experience for one or both dogs.
  • dogs should NOT be allowed to charge another dog (on or off a leash).  This behaviour needs to be redirected ASAP.  Never allow your dog to PULL you towards anything he wants while out on a walk.
  • Rough out of control play should be supervised, limited and controlled.  Bullying should not be tolerated at all from large or small breed dogs.
  • Teach dogs to SIT calmly when another dog passes on a walk.  Work up to being able to walk calmly by other dogs.
  • Teach a command that means GO PLAY to your dog.  Unless they hear it, they need to remain by your side.
  • Teach dogs as early as possible that other dogs are NOT always AVAILABLE to PLAY at all times. 
  • Socialize all breeds and sizes TO all breeds and sizes as early as possible with positive safe experiences.   Small dogs are often terrified of big dogs from lack of exposure and vice versa.  Nothing sadder than a ST Bernard running away from a Shih Tzu!
  • Expose to many, many people as early as possible and teach manners right from the start.  A 10 lbs puppy quickly grows into a 60 lb puppy!  Jumping needs to be controlled from day 1.  He can't help that he grows!
  • Dog Parks can be fun, but control must be exercised .  A reliable COME, GENTLE & OFF are all of importance.  Remember anyone with a dog can be there and that is not always a good thing.  The only thing you can control in a dog park is your own dog.  Dog parks are a great way to let your dog socialize and expel an abundance of energy but be smart about it.  I find off peak times are safer and more enjoyable then weekend afternoons! 

     An important thing to take away from all this is that a well behaved dog on a leash walking calmly past another dog or person is still being socialized.  Socialization is not the act of allowing your dog to intrude into everyone's space.  We are not doing our dogs any favours by allowing continuous obnoxious behaviour on leash or off.

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