Often, it is hard for owners to relate to the concept that dogs learn from each other and the dogs that your dog hangs out with, will play a role in what kind of dog your dog becomes. Perhaps it is easier to relate if we translate that into human terms.
There are tons of interest groups out there. Cycling group, Taekwondo group, Hiking group, drinking group, star-gazing group. Every group has a different focus point. If you join a cycling group every Saturday, soon you will be in sync with the speed that the group travels, the whole idea of what the group is about. Similarly, if you join a drinking group often enough, even if you are a rookie drinker, in time, you will become one that can drink all night long. Let’s say you decided to join a drinking group every Friday. Every time you ‘enter’ the group, you have already gotten yourself mentally prepared that this is the atmosphere of the group, drinking, partying and getting wasted. And you probably would also have cleared all your plans on Saturday because you are going to be wasted and hangover.
Now bringing all these concepts of Interest Groups into the dog-world. They work the same way. When you introduce your dog to a certain group of dog friends, based on the atmosphere, the energy of the group, your dog reacts a certain way. And if you bring your dog to that group often enough, your dog will know what exactly to expect before entering the group, when in the group and after being in the group. Very often, we hear owners saying “he is not normally like that. I have no idea what has gotten into him today.” Here’s a quick answer, he is like that because he is in this group. If you bring your dog frequently to a dog cafe, and you do the same things every time you bring your dog there, your dog would have been mentally prepared before arriving at the cafe, and start behaving a certain way in the cafe.
Techno is an agility dog. He does agility once a week, every time before he enters the agility group, he is all hyped up, ready to go. When he is at home, he is usually chilling, relaxing, doing nothing. But once he steps into the agility group, he is a changed dog. Peter’s owners bring him to meet a certain group of dog-friends very often. Peter is usually a quiet dog and he does not run much. Every time he sees his dog-friends, he runs around and barks at everyone. Maxy is a fussy eater, he spends 1 hour eating one meal every single day. However, when he’s at the playground with his group of friends, he literally sits in-front of another human asking for treats throughout the whole time.
Does the above sounds familiar? This is why we always say the kind of dogs your dog hangs out with is very important, especially during learning phase and especially when your dog does not have a strong relationship with you. When you introduce your dog to a place to create havoc, what do you expect from your dog? There are of course good groups to hang out with, where there is a clear concept, good rules and everyone’s goal is the same. However, there are also a lot of mindless groups. There has been a rise of neighbourhood gatherings for dogs where dog owners from the same estate hangs out and chat while their dogs mingle. We have met a couple of those and have trained a couple of dogs that frequent these gatherings. While there are always exceptions, many of these gatherings do largely nothing good for the dogs as there is no clear concept, no rules and dogs of all kinds come together. Dogs learn to mark the ground, run around aimlessly and recklessly, learn that food is always available from a certain person and take home a bunch of bad habits.
Many people think that we are too anal or strict about where we recommend dogs to go, what we allow dogs to do and what kind of dogs we allow them to meet. But in reality, this is one of the best way you can teach your dog, build a strong bond and have a consistent dog. And in actual fact, your dog does not need anyone else, but you. Engaging alone with your dog can be fun and fulfilling for both your dog and you. There is no need to always wanting your dog to meet other dogs, especially if the idea of fun is mindless. This is something to think about.