This is a guest post by Carrie Boyko from All Things Dog Blog.
Socialization of your puppy or dog is critical to his happy life. An unfriendly dog will not make as good a companion for you; and let’s face it, it isn’t much fun for the dog either.
Dogs are, by nature, pack animals. When we bring a dog to live in our family, we become their pack leaders. With this job comes the privilege and responsibility of assuring that they receive their social upbringing. To be a pleasant member of our family, they must learn good manners.
If you are starting this process with a new puppy, your task will likely be easier. After all, what’s not fun about playing with a puppy? Play is their socialization. As their social director, you must assure that all of their experiences with humans and dogs go well.
Each puppy is different. If you have a submissive, shy puppy, she may need a slower indoctrination to the socializing experiences. Start with one-on-one meetings, gradually moving up to small groups. When she is ready for a large group, you will know it by her posture at the gate of the dog park. A wagging tail and perked ears will signal her readiness.
Dominant or assertive puppies may need guidance in a different way. These pups may often simply “mow through” the assembled visitors, playing too aggressively. It will be up to you to intervene and let the little guy know when enough is enough. Your guidance will help him understand what level of greeting activity is desired. Be consistent and assure regular experiences during the formative first two years, to assure his socialization is well learned.
Socializing a mature dog, whose pack experiences have been lacking, may involve a bit more diligence on your part. Don’t give up hope. Very few dogs cannot learn to enjoy people and other dogs, given the proper leadership, patience, and practice. If your dog seems hesitant, nervous, or even aggressive around other dogs, begin his socialization process by establishing yourself as his leader. You set the rules and lead the way, at all times.
When leash training is accomplished, you may be ready to engage a fellow dog-owner to join you with her pup on a walk. Skip the greetings and simply meet up and keep moving, walking the dogs on the outside of your foursome. Most dogs will find walking with their owners to be a good way to accomplish a successful first meeting, without a face to face introduction. It’s a start, and one that you can build on slowly as your dog shows you his growing readiness for greeting others of his own kind. Take your time and enjoy the journey. Happy tails!