Many times we see dogs that snaps or growls at another dog, we run off to the other corner telling other owners that particular dog is not friendly, not sociable. As owners, many of us fail to read situations correctly and we fail to properly socialise our dogs.
To start off, lets make it clear not to mix trained and socialised into the same pot of water. A highly trained dog can be under socialised and an untrained dog can be the guru in socialising. A socialised dog is one that can co-exist with other dogs off-leash in common grounds without causing any issues.
Now at this point, some of you may be thinking that your dog is very friendly, he is always very happy to meet another dog, tails wagging excitably, jumping, pouncing and has never growled and never caused any problems during meetings. – Just for a moment, step back and imagine this dog as a person that you meet for the first time. So friendly, so conversational, touching your hair, going all around your body, patting your head, always in a high-pitch/tone voice, going non-stop. Is this person sociable? Is this person well-mannered? Absolutely not. Most of us may also consider this person rude, too in-your-face, and all your want to do is tell the person to back off.
Like human, every dog is different. Some of us have better patience than others, some dogs have better tolerance level than others. What we want to teach our dogs is to be well-mannered, to greet dogs properly, to give dogs space, to read warnings politely, to co-exist with other dogs in the same space while maintaining a relax mind. As we have mentioned multiple times, an excited dog, is not necessarily a happy dog. Bringing your dog to an unnecessary excited zone, provides no benefits. It does not make your dog happy, and every single time you come across the same situation, your dog will have the same mindset, over time this mindset is going to build into something bigger, stronger and much harder to control and change (oh yes, its building in the system, you better believe it).
When you meet another dog for the first time, or if you intend to bring your dog out to meet friends, the best way to do it, is off leash. Dogs that are not leash pressure trained becomes tense or react adversely when they feel tension on the leash. If you are feeling nervous, it further heightens the tension on the leash. Unless you are in control of yourself, the leash and your dog is highly leash pressure trained, drop that leash. If you are worried that once the dogs are off leash, you are unable to stop any bad situations immediately, allow the dogs to drag the leashes on the floor. Keep initial greetings, butt sniffing short. Just like how you greet someone new, you shake hands for less than 2seconds. Imagine that someone shakes your hand and holds on to your hand for more than 10seconds. Awkward, isn’t it? Guide the dogs off each other to allow them to learn to keep greetings short and sweet. Use an ‘extended hand’ if you have to. Tools like canes, horse whips, sticks, branches, can act as an extended hand for you to guide the dogs.
Don’t Blame The Other Dog
Dogs like human, feel appreciated when they are given their own spaces. If another dog is not in the mood for play or further engagement, move your dog away. Dogs are social creatures, they like to move in packs. But having said that, dogs also like to be respected. Due to the lack of proper socialisation, many dogs now fail to read warnings and cues. Puppies for instance, like to lick the faces and mouths of adult dogs or one that is in a higher authority. It can be a form of acknowledgment but too much of it, is a form of harassment. Many of us see licking other dogs as a form of play until the other dog snaps back. If your dog is constantly chasing the mouth of another dog, check if the other dog is tolerant with it. If the other dog lets out warning signs such as soft growling or turning away, guide your dog away if he is unable to read those signs. If you don’t and the other dog snaps at yours, you have no one to blame. The other dog gave a warning, your dog failed to read it, and you as the owner, failed to recognise the problem. In the human context, if someone is constantly fussing with your hair even though you asked for a halt, what would you have done next? And as owners, if your dog is constantly being disturbed by another dog, protect your dog. You as the owner, have the responsibility to make your dog feel safe so that he does not need to get all worked up and start attacking because his owner is ‘allowing’ other dogs to harass him.
Invitational play is an excellent way of socialising. Dogs some times do downward bow to invite other dogs to play. It is polite and it is OK to let them play. However, dogs do not need to play every time they are together. Being together even without play, builds their social skills. Dogs observe and learn all the time. Socialising doesn’t have to be about all play, it is about letting your dog learn to be in an environment and be content. If you want your dog to play all the time and you want your dogs to play with the dogs he meet all the time – 1) your dog is going to be very tired. 2) your dog is going to learn that this particular place or these particular group of dogs is all about play 3) your dog is going to regard every single dog or human with play(unfortunately this is a very very bad move)
Recognising Sexual Aggression and Anti-Social
Neutering and spaying dogs are very common and more than half of the dogs are sterilised. It allows them to co-exist without having the need to fight for place and having the need to dominate over another dog of the same sex. However, there are some of us who prefers dog to be intact for various reasons. Female dogs fortunately do not cause much problems even if they are intact. Male dogs on the other hand can openly challenge another intact male if they are not socialised from young. Let us put it up-front. Intact male dogs challenge one another but they will not cause much problems unless there is a bitch on heat. If you have allow your intact male to properly socialise and if you have lay down solid foundation and ground rules, you may have an intact male that is polite and well-balanced even when in contact with other intact males. However, if you have not properly done so, you will soon find that your dog seeks out intact males from a sea of dogs just to ‘kill’ that those dogs. Occasionally, there are intact males that are so highly driven that the only way to knock down this wall, is to neuter them. To put it in the open, if you have an intact male that is only targeting certain dogs, do yourself a favour and do your dog a favour, recognise what the problem is, fix it.
Some of us may be thinking, my dog is very friendly, and doing fine this way, why do I need to be in control of how they meet other dogs? – Because as owners, we love it when our dogs get to meet their ‘friends’ and because as owners, we hate it when our dogs get hurt and we hate it when other people say that our dogs are not friendly. If our dog is doing an undesirable behaviour, and we see no problem with that because it doesn’t hurt him, then we have no one to blame when the behaviour escalates or when he gets injured by another dog. Lastly, put yourself in your dog’s shoes. Do you want to react this particular way all time? Do you want to get snapped at all the time? Or do you want to be the dog that manoeuvres around situations like it’s a piece of cake. We, as the owner, need to be the answer to the equation of a highly socialised and well balanced dog.
Let us all work together on being responsible owners who can proudly say “my dog is well socialised”.