There’s a reason why there are so many dog parks, classes and puppy play date services designed to let your dog to socialize with other dogs. Simply put, a social dog is a happy, well-behaved dog. It’s true. Rover needs canine contact every bit as much as he needs human contact. It’s not hard to understand the psychology if we just flip it around on ourselves: we love being with our pets but we need to interact with people, too.
There are a variety of options out there but it is important to be sensitive to the needs of your pooch. Older dogs have different social needs than puppies and will deal with social situations differently.
Puppy Play Time
An important element to training your pup is socializing him. While most responsible breeders and pet rescues will not let a puppy go to a home where it will not be adequately socialized, it is important to be sure that he’s given regular and meaningful interaction with other puppies for the first twelve weeks of life at a minimum.
Ever known a dog that bit and snapped for no reason, one who always seems afraid or confrontational? It’s likely that dog was not properly socialized as a puppy and no one is helping him be around other dogs now.
Beginning with his siblings and transitioning to less familiar puppies will help yours to develop lasting positive behaviors both with other dogs and with you.
Socializing your Adult Dog
Unlike puppies, adult dogs need more structure to their socialization. While it may be reasonable and effective to let puppies chase each-other around the dog park, the same scenario with older dogs could be a recipe for disaster.
Older dogs need to learn more passive interactive behaviors. They need to learn to sit quietly when other dogs pass by. They need to learn to go on walks in tandem with other dogs and their owners without pulling, barking or antagonizing the other dogs. They need to learn how to approach other dogs and detect differences in temperaments.
A good place to start is to find a friend or relative with a calm, easy-going pooch and take Rover on a walk with him. It helps him get used to being around another dog and he will learn from example by how the other dog behaves. Carry small treats to reinforce good behavior and give them liberally when he behaves as you want and expect.
Finally, never force interaction with other dogs. Rover doesn’t need to greet every dog he sees or even react to them. The company of other dogs is more important than interaction. If you have your heart set on doggie play dates and the like, start by encouraging interaction with just one other dog, then ramp up from there. Encourage Rover to interact harmoniously with other dogs in a variety of social settings and he will be happier, better-behaved and more calm overall.