Monday, June 4, 2012

6 Ways to Socialize Your Dog with Other Dogs & People

By Linda Cole

Dog parks are great because they provide a place where your dog can interact with other canines on a regular basis. However, sometimes a dog that used to get along well with other dogs and people appears to have had a change of heart and isn't too keen on being around other dogs, and you have no idea why. Even well socialized dogs need practice to stay friendly with other dogs and people.

Sometimes the problem isn't with the dog, it's with his owner. Because dogs are social creatures, we think they should always want to be around other canines. That's not always the case. Some dogs just don't like being with other dogs. We take our pets to the park so they can interact with other dogs and then don't understand why conflicts develop. According to dog trainer and writer Diamond Davis, “It is actually more 'normal' for a mature dog to NOT be able to 'play nice' with strange dogs in a dog park.”

If your pet isn't enjoying himself at the park, that doesn't mean he isn't socialized or is becoming aggressive. It most likely means he’s uncomfortable with other dogs at the park running up and getting into his face all the time. There's a reason why dogs mark their territory and why wolf packs attack other packs that intrude into their space. Canines aren't wired to socialize with dogs they don't know, and we may unknowingly put a dog in a situation where he's uncomfortable.

Socialization takes practice and it needs to be constantly reinforced to keep a dog friendly with other dogs and people. Teaching your dog basic commands is what helps keep him polite and under control when he's not in the mood to be social. Think about it – we react the same way when our personal space is invaded by someone we don't know who stands or sits a little too close when talking to us. If your dog isn't the ‘dog park’ kind of canine, there are other ways to give him exposure to other dogs and people to help keep him socialized.

Doggie Daycare. Not everyone has access to a daycare for dogs, but if you do, a few days a week there will give him plenty of exposure to other dogs. It's important to do your homework, however. Make sure the daycare has different areas for different sized dogs and they are supervised with staff who are experienced and understand dogs and their body language.

Daily Walks. Never underestimate the benefits of daily walks. Walking stimulates a dog's mind and helps to keep him healthy. Taking different routes around your neighborhood gives you a chance to run into other people walking their dogs. It's a good way to keep your pet socialized by meeting dogs and people he already knows plus a chance to make new friends.

Dog Training Classes. Enrolling your dog in an obedience class is a good place to work on his socialization skills. The other pets are under control and supervised, which gives your dog a chance to meet other pets when they're calm and on a leash.

Dog Clubs. Interacting with other dog owners who enjoy a particular sport with their dogs is a good way to make new human and canine friends. Not all organizations are into dog sports and you can find a variety of interests when it comes to dog clubs. Check out dog clubs in your area and find one that fits an interest you may have. It’s fun to do things with our dogs, even if it's just getting together with like minded owners who enjoy spending the day at the beach and tossing Frisbees around.

Dog Sports. Participating in a dog sport is a great way for pets to have fun and keep them well socialized. A high energy dog will enjoy the challenge of agility, dock diving, sheep herding competitions, flyball or any other sport. Some dogs love the spotlight and enjoy showing off at a dog show.

Therapy Training. A friendly and calm dog who loves meeting new people may enjoy being a therapy dog. Canines are just like us and some dogs would rather just spend quiet time with us.

Dog parks are good places for your dog to meet and play with other canines, as long as he's well socialized and isn't uncomfortable meeting new dogs. But if he just isn't into hanging out with dogs he doesn't know, give him a break and find other places or ways to work on his socialization skills. There's a reason why dogs do what they do, and keeping him friendly is important. It also helps to keep him safe and out of trouble.

Photo by Carterse

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Those are some mighty good ideas of how to socialize your dogs. We did obedience school with my border collie puppy an she loves other dogs and kids and people in general.

  2. That is wonderful advice but I don't drive and am alone all the time!!
    We have a friend come by with her dog but she doesn't get here even once a month. Tomorrow she is coming. It has been 3 months since she was here last-- life gets in the way!!

  3. So interesting! I often feel bad for older dogs at the dog park while Finn is trying to get them to play, they have no interest. They kind of keep to themselves, makes sense!

  4. Thanks for these great ways to socialize dogs, Linda. Such a wide variety of options ... it seems like there is something for everybody!

  5. I so appreciate this! I have a Siberian husky male, 5, and a female husky, 7. She loves the dog park, but my male, well, I just as soon leave him at home. He seems to get so riled up about not being able to be the big man on campus that sadly, I've stopped taking them. He is perfectly happy with his one buddy, and yet I have felt guilty about not making him go. :( This helps me see that it is okay, and an idea as to why because this describes him exactly - he doesn't like all those dogs in his face!


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