Socializing your dog is not always as straight forward as you might think.
Is your dog “social,” or is your dog, “dog-obsessed”?
Dog Social: Your dog can see another dog and take it or leave it. Your dog is aware of your existence in the presence of other dogs. Even if they get excited to see a dog friend, they can quickly and easily be brought back under control. Social dogs don’t get frustrated when they can’t access other dogs. During play, your dog is easy to recall and refocus.
Dog Neutral: Your dog is selective about its dog-friends. It doesn’t always enjoy playing with other dogs. Your dog probably grew up with the dogs it likes. It retreats, or growls and postures, when another (unknown adult) dog gets in their face or tries to sniff them. When stranger dogs try to play, they move away and seem disinterested. While they don’t enjoy playing with strange dogs, they are able to be near other dogs, or pass other dogs on or off-leash as long they don’t ‘get in their face.’ **This is normal, acceptable, adult dog behavior.** Most dogs should fall into this category. This is APPROPRIATE ADULT DOG BEHAVIOR. It’s like if you’re standing in line at a grocery store. It is RARE to strike up a conversation with a total stranger because in society it is polite to mind your own business, and you definitely don’t follow them around and touch them. It doesn’t connote that you are a mean person, it simply shows you are aware of behavioral norms.
Stage One Dog Obsessed: When another dog is around it renders your leash useless. You can ‘sometimes’ wrestle them back into compliance. Treats are hit or miss when trying to refocus.
Stage Two Dog Obsessed: Your dog is pulling so hard, it compels you to explain your dog’s behavior with “He’s just so excited…” Treats are as useless as your leash.
Stage Three Dog Obsessed: You’ve already tried to explain how excited your dog is, but the other people can’t hear you over your dog’s barking. You can’t reach your treats without losing your dog.
Stage Four Dog Obsessed: You’ve decided there’s a problem because taking your dog for a walk is embarrassing.
Stage Five Dog Obsessed: Midnight walks and hiding behind trees seems normal.
When should you intervene? BEFORE STAGE THREE. Stage one is the easiest time to intervene. Training can help retain your dog’s social behavior. Stage two and three require more serious mitigation. Stage three dogs, with training, may be able to be Dog Neutral. Stage four and five result in life-long management and mitigation of the dog’s behavior; training will *help but may not fix the problem. Dogs that reach stage four and five may struggle to return to Dog Neutral, and Dog Social will likely never be an option.
Best plan for socializing your dog?
Focus on long-term doggy relationships (friend, neighbor, and family dogs). Avoid meeting strange dogs your dog will never see again. If you need your dog to get along with another dog, follow the Meet and Greet Protocol (Available on our Virtual Academy). Reward your dog for ignoring other dogs on walks. If you feel like your dog isn’t getting enough exercise, treadmill train, teach them how to tug, and/or hire a dog walker or dog hiker, instead of doggy daycare or dog parks.
Dog Dynamix can help you reach your training goals through various dog training program options. We have locations serving Denver, Colorado and Columbus, Ohio, so reach out and let us get your dog on track.