Some dogs are very sociable and love mixing with others whereas some are more reserved and prefer their space. Many people have asked me how they can “make” their dog more sociable because a lot of people assume that all dogs must be friendly with all other dogs at all times, but guess what? Us humans aren’t! We don’t fall in love with every person we meet so why should we expect this from our dogs?
If you have a young puppy then socialising him from a young age is important to show him that the big noisy world isn’t as scary as it seems and you are there to keep him safe. Taking him to well-organised puppy classes run by a good trainer is great for most puppies and gets them used to meeting all sorts of people and dogs in a new environment. Always ensure that the class is small and operated efficiently with at least two people running it (usually a trainer and an assistant). Everything that puppies experience can stay with them for life so always be careful to ensure that all experiences are good ones and use plenty of treats and toys to turn every situation, whether good or bad, into a positive one.
Older dogs may not be as tolerant so a five second meet-and-greet is usually best to avoid unnecessary stress and conflict. I do it like this: walk up to the other dog and owner, ask your dog to focus on you (treats or their favourite toy is a perfect reward once they offer the desired behaviour) and then, allow your dogs to say hello calmly. Let them sniff each other (but not face to face as this can be seen as confrontational) and calmly call them away after five seconds and ask for them to sit and “look at me” again. This is great for dogs as it teaches them that they’re allowed to say hello to other dogs but only when you say that it’s safe to do so. If your dog gets too excitable simply call him away calmly, give yourselves some space, wait for him to calm down and try again. This is a good exercise to practice with friends and family and can then be used on future walks when meeting new dogs for the first time.
Using the five second meet-and-greet approach for dogs of all ages is a great starting point as it not only helps prevent lead frustration but also means that you can continue to meet other dogs and further the socialising in a calm, safe and controlled manner. Always remember that not all dogs like every dog they meet. Some prefer a quieter life just sniffing around country fields and aren’t fussed about playing. Others love a game of chase at the local park with other playful dogs! Just don’t expect too much from him and appreciate that every dog is unique just like us humans are. Some people like to go to parties but others prefer to stay at home and watch a good movie (I’m the latter!). Find out what your dog loves doing most and enjoy him for who he is.