We have all heard the saying, “Less is more”. This is extremely important to remember when it comes to socialising our dogs.
Many Trainers, including us at Found by the Hound will discuss the importance of socialisation in conjunction with positive exposure to new sights, sounds, people and places (key word: POSITIVE). This can sometimes be misinterpreted, with the owner believing that more exposure and any socialisation, the better their dog will be for it.
We ask this question; Would you allow your child to play and interact with everyone, including the kids that misbehave, bully and pose a bad influence all in the name of socialisation? Of course not. The same concept applies when we discuss appropriate socialisation for our dogs.
While consistent exposure and socialisation are important, particularly during the early development stages of young dogs, it is crucial to differentiate between what is positive vs what is unnecessary and possibly detrimental to the balance of your dog. Taking your puppy to a park to get pinned down, chased around, bitten and feeling overwhelmed and scared is not a good positive social experience, and will leave your puppy with lasting memories that can be extremely difficult to repair later in life.
Be picky about the dogs you choose to introduce to your own, just as you would your child. Socialisation is important but the age-old notion of quality over quantity reigns true and to get the very most out of social encounters, making sure their playmate is the right fit is vital to promoting a happy, confident and well-balanced dog.
OUR TOP TIPS FOR SOCIALISATION
1. Choose the playmate and owner wisely
Just like we don’t like everyone that we meet, dogs are exactly the same. Not everyone at the park will be a good match for your dog and the same goes for the owner. While face value can count for somethings, extra attention should be paid if you intend for your dog to interact with others. Be aware of the surroundings and the owner/dog duos in it.
An owner you’d want to engage with will be vigilant, aware and in control of their dog. Don’t opt for someone who is distracted and texting etc. Ensure all dog owners are present and have control over the situation.
2. Do you actually have control of your dog when he’s off lead?
It is often typical of dogs to become excitable around one another, shifting their focus from you. If their recall is not 100%, this can become exceptionally frustrating and you will lose all control over the situation. It is very difficult to have your dog learn a good recall once they have figured out you have no control. It is also very difficult for your dog to learn a good recall if he finds playing with other dogs, more fulfilling than his interaction with you.
3. Be mindful of undesirable behaviour and STEER CLEAR
Keep your dogs’ best interest in mind when allowing socialisation. Size, personality and behaviour will play a key role in determining which dog would be an appropriate playmate for yours. If you notice a dog that nips, displays aggression or plays too rough, reconsider approaching. Socialisation should be healthy and positive.
These experiences will begin to increase your dogs’ confidence and one bad experience can erase all the hard work you have put in, potentially resulting in fearful behaviour, fear aggression, lack of confidence towards new experiences and dogs or social anxiety. Be mindful of the nature of the dogs around you and don’t allow your dog to enter stressful or threatening situations. Have their back!
4. Location, location, location
We understand that many dog owners enjoy taking their dogs to public beaches, dog parks and other high dog traffic areas – it’s a mixed bag. The more dogs, the more uncertainty. Take your dog away from the hustle and bustle and allow your dog to socialise in a calm (and non chaotic) environment. Without the added stimulation of 100 new dogs, your dog will be more at ease.
5. Learn to watch for body language
It is important that now you are a dog owner that you spend some time learning about different body language dogs use. As humans we communicate predominantly through words, tone, and body language. Dogs primary form of communication is body language. By learning more about your dog’s signals you will be able to interpret some of the communications your dog is displaying. Learn to understand your dog and its feeling in different situations. Work with your dog to build a calm and confident outlook towards the outside world.
If you are unsure seek advice from a professional to assist in learning to listen to your dog too.
6. Don’t forget about YOUR bond
If your dog is not overly interested in others, that is quite okay. There is nothing wrong with a dog that doesn’t care. If he is more interested in what you are doing, you could be onto a winner. The bond your dog has with you is the most important of all so if regular socialisation doesn’t tickle your dog’s fancy than carry on, as you were, with man’s best friend.