Socialization is a learning process that allows an individual (here the dog), generally during its youth, to adapt and integrate into its social environment and to live in a group. It gives the means to manage relationships thanks to several points:
emotional control,conflict resolution strategiescooperative attitudesunderstanding attitudesadapting to other individuals
Yet few owners are aware of what socialization is because as humans, we have our own interpretation of how a dog should behave. Here is how to ruin your dog’s socialization.
1- Forcing your dog
For many owners, seeing another dog means that their dog will have to meet him. Worse, some dogs don’t want to make contact and try to escape the situation. In both cases, the owners will force the dogs to make contact with the other dog.
In other cases, the dog is forced to accept contact with another human, whether it is a stranger or grandma Gertrude. However, a dog is not a petting zoo. He does not have to want to be touched or approached.
As an owner, we must understand that our dog is above all an individual and not an emotionless stuffed animal. We should never force our dog to be subjected to others. It will be one less risk that he will become reactive to other dogs and/or humans. By trying to make him social we could obtain the opposite, a dog that becomes sensitive to others.
2- Meet your dog on a leash
In cities, many encounters between dogs take place while they are on a leash. A leash, no matter how long, restricts the dog’s movements and forces it to go in the direction chosen by the owner, reducing the time and space for interaction.
When you use the leash to block the dog or, worse, to pull the dog back or drag it, it can cause enormous stress and, for some, even trauma.
If it is really necessary for your dog to be held, then follow him, but on a leash. This gives the dog more choice. Better yet, choose an enclosed area large enough to release the dogs safely.
3- Let dogs fend for themselves all the time
If there is a very deep-rooted preconceived notion, it is this one: let your dog fend for itself. If this idea has some truth to it, it also has some danger that must be taken into account.
Dogs rarely choose who they meet, so it is our responsibility to manage their interactions. A dog may not have the physical strength, personality or emotional ability to stop an interaction. This compulsion can easily lead to fights and danger.
A dog has the right to ask us to leave. You don’t let a 2 month old puppy get bumped into by an older dog without doing anything. You don’t let a dog be in physical and/or emotional distress even if the other dog is nice. And if it is true that a dog will often be able to explain certain things better to another dog, the owner remains responsible for his dog.
4- Release your dog to socialize him
In recent years, the fashion is to get together with other dogs. People meet other dog owners and release them together and that’s it. Owners think that this is the way to socialize their dogs.
The truth is that it is better to have few but good encounters than many unmanaged encounters where excitement is always present. Indeed, if your dog spends his time being excited during these encounters, this is how he will learn to interact with other dogs. This is not a good thing because it is often what leads to fights.
Worse, some owners let their dog run over every dog (and human sometimes) they come across. Socializing your dog doesn’t mean letting him run into everyone. Socializing your dog should allow him to find the tools to approach certain encounters. Your dog should feel comfortable. Not too excited, not too fearful or stressed. Every dog is different, and every dog will approach socialization in a different way.
5- Let your dog do what he wants because he is nice
One of the worst arguments I hear regularly when a dog comes at us in a rude way! “My dog is nice” and followed by … nothing. The owner often doesn’t even bother to make the effort to catch the dog.
Yes, your dog may be nice and so? This is no reason to make him suffer to other walkers. Sometimes it is the dog on the leash who is in the middle of rehabilitation, who is sick, has pain… He does not need to meet your nice dog.
I advise you to always ask the owner across the street if it is ok for the dogs to meet. In fact, this is just the basis of respect. Thank you for respecting him.
6- Base meetings on preconceived ideas
Since many owners love their dogs, they will do almost anything to avoid certain situations. They will therefore rely on certain preconceived ideas such as :
the breed (a staff doesn’t get along with the others) the sex (two males who are not neutered won’t get along) the size (the big dog will inevitably predate on the small dog)
I understand that this can happen, but it should not become a general rule. A dog socializes to the individuals he meets (races, sexes, sizes and even ages and personalities). The best way to meet people is to know your own dog and ask the other owner. If you are unsure, you have the right not to make the match.
7- Trusting other owners
You will say to me but which fly pricks it?! In reality, many owners don’t know how to read their own dog or how to interpret his behavior correctly. Some owners will say that their dog is sociable and we realize that he is mostly a stalker. Some will think their dog is “dominant”, their dog is just totally associable and just wants to beat the crap out of others.
They are not deliberately lying. Simply, dogs have been with us for so long, that few people are really interested in their ethology, their nature, their behaviors.
So don’t hesitate to read dogs, to observe them, in order to decipher the slightest clue that could foreshadow a good or bad encounter.
8- Having 2 dogs is enough
Whether you live with several dogs or your dog has been meeting the same dog regularly for 5 years, this will not make him a sociable dog. Even if your dog was sociable during the first 2 years of his life, if he doesn’t see another dog afterwards, there is a big risk of seeing behaviors like :
aggressiveness towards other dogs, fear of other dogs, etc.
A dog is normally a social being, which means that he has to meet other dogs on a regular basis throughout his life. Normally (another problem is not taken into account here). Some dogs, because of certain traumas, will not be able to be happy with regular socializing. If you are not sure about this point, it is best to be followed by a dog behaviorist.
9- Letting a bad interaction happen
People often ask me how to stop a dog fight. The best way is to avoid it. Although dogs rarely get hurt (often they can get hurt when dog owners try to separate them), it is still a very stressful, even traumatic event. Too much excitement should be avoided and static standing should be avoided. This causes the dogs to target each other and builds pressure.
10- Not being alert because the dogs are playing
Seeing dogs playing sometimes makes us forget all caution. How many owners look at their phone while the dogs are loose?
A game between dogs can hide another game, a provocation, a harassment… And you won’t see it if you are not attentive to the dogs’ interactions. The situation can quickly become unbalanced and end in a fight. Do not hesitate to impose breaks to the dogs. This can be done by resuming the walk for example. Here is the article to absolutely read to analyze the game between dogs: The Game between dogs