The short answer: No
At Found by the Hound, our Trainers regularly get asked about playfulness and interaction with other dogs and how to encourage a dog to be more ‘interested’ or engaged with dogs while out at the park or the beach. The fact of the matter is that you cannot force your dog to ‘like’ or ‘engage’ with anything if it does not feel comfortable, or simply just doesn’t want to.
Just like we don’t like everyone that we meet, dogs are exactly the same. A similar comparison is that just like we as humans do not run up to greet every stranger or may not wish to hang out in unfamiliar groups all the time, your dog may feel the same. While some thrive in a group setting, others may be more comfortable relaxing one-on-one with a close/best friend.
There are many different ways dogs conduct themselves around others. Some can be quite timid; others can be especially exuberant and excited, some can be defensive and reactive, and others are just not phased at all and would rather walk or play with you. It is important to remember dogs have their own feelings and we need to learn to understand our dog’s personality and respect its individual desires.
“My dog just wants to play with me and won’t go up to other dogs”
Sound familiar? If you answered yes, this is a GOOD thing!
In fact, you couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. In many cases, dogs can get easily distracted and in a public setting can often become more interested in what and who is around them. This results in the problem that they no longer care about you, the owner. This can result in a very frustrating game of chase, ignoring you completely or command nagging which we do not recommend.
While the notion of a social butterfly for a dog seems delightful, this will be completely dependent on the dog itself. Dogs are unique and have their own personalities. Playfulness and interest in other dogs cannot be trained or forced and if you do not respect your dog in this sense and continue to force their ‘paw’ you can involuntarily create issues.
At Found By The Hound, you will never see us attempt to train a dog to be interested in or focused on anything other than you. The bond you share with your dog is of the upmost importance and the very reason why we do what we do. We want to help build this bond rather than diminish it. Whilst you can facilitate safe interactions with other dogs, you cannot make your dog like the company of strangers and opt to engage in a game if it is really uncomfortable about it.
Even at Puppy Kindy, owners may feel disappointed that their puppy would rather sit by their owner’s feet and chill out rather than try to play with the puppy beside it. Neutral is the goal. A dog that is quite happy to be around other dogs and not feel the need to rush up is not necessarily shy, timid or afraid, they may simply be ‘okay’ with just ‘being’ alongside you, their human.
If your dog is focused on you and can easily walk past another dog without going ‘crazy’ you have raised a relaxed, unphased and neutral dog.
We frequently encounter dogs that are either reactive towards other dogs making them hard to handle or too excited around other dogs that they no longer listen to you, both of which are very problematic for their owners.
You are your dogs’ best friend and they are yours. Make sure that when you go out you keep that relationship the same.