26 February 2022

Socialising your Dog

In this blog I will discuss why it is perhaps that your dog performs unwanted behavior’s when you meet other dogs. In a recent poll on social media, dog owners were asked what is the one behavior that you would change about your dog given the opportunity. The most common response was problematic dog interactions/socialisation. Why did their dog behave this way or that way when they met other dogs? Or why did their dog not react at all when out on walks?

I think it useful to remind ourselves that dogs are a pack animal and they have social rules. In their natural environment, they interact with their pack naturally and without the influence of humans. One pack of dogs would not think O’ look there’s another pack, shall we go over, say hello, and play? So dogs meeting and playing together on an ad-hoc basis isn’t natural or what we might describe as a friendly, playful manner. The other pack of dogs may present a threat, and so they would not be welcome.

All too often when we arrive at a park or open space and we see other dogs running and playing together we think to ourselves “oh this is fantastic it’s really busy today……. go on boy, go and play…..or in other words…….. go and wear yourself out!

I would suggest that first and foremost we take into consideration what nature has determined; what will there their character, confidence, and temperament be? If a dog is confident, then this dog, in my experience will interact differently to a dog that is perhaps anxious and lacks confidence. Now the lack of confidence could be innate or maybe it’s a direct result of previous negative experiences? Therefore, when an anxious dog finds itself presented with a dilemma, a position which it isn’t naturally comfortable with, then it will be less willing to proceed.

Alleyways are good examples because these present the dog with limited space when they are confronted by the oncoming dog, not to mention that they are likely to be attached to a lead. Therefore, they have restricted movement, which equates to restricted options. Nervous dogs do not like restricted options. Alternatively, a confident dog will be comfortable with the approaching dog or perhaps even interested and wanting to greet (seek information about) the other dog. A balanced, happy-go-lucky dog may simply walk on by.

So now that we have taken into consideration the dogs’ character, confidence, and temperament, we should then consider the dogs’ breed, sex, age, and previous experiences.

Most puppies are inquisitive and will approach other dogs in a playful manner. However, a senior dog may regard the puppy’s approach as unwanted or even disrespectful. This may result in the senior dog correcting the puppy.

A puppy is unlikely to recognise the senior dog's body language and so it will carry on bouncing around regardless. Therefore, depending on the senior dog's character, confidence, and temperament, and whether it is attached to a lead or not (restricted options) it is likely to either tolerate the puppy or correct it; vocally, physically, or both. This correction method is how a puppy learns in its natural environment. However, the puppy is not in the natural environment, they are attached to their owner. Therefore, it’s the owner's responsibility to teach the puppy how to interact. The playground rules if you like.

Failing to teach the puppy how to play in a way that us humans find acceptable is very important. The expression “just let them get on with it, they will work it out” in my opinion, is a poor choice and something, unfortunately, we hear all too often. If the senior dog is allowed to correct the puppy, then this will reinforce the behaviour, and it will become a learned behaviour for the senior dog (I behaved like this…. and this was the result).

The puppy on the other hand, is at risk of learning by mistake rather than being guided by its owner. This result potentially for the puppy is losing confidence in their owner, which may result in the puppy making decisions of their own in the near future…..”I don’t want to get bitten again so I’ll bark, bark, bark….hey presto the other dog stayed away….I didn’t get bitten….so this is how I need to behave. Great….errr no!

So in order to progress, to modify our dog's behaviour it’s important that we are mindful of breed traits, identify our dog's character, confidence, and temperament, think about the environment and the other dogs present.

As I mentioned, there are other factors too, such as the sex and age of the dog. As an example, a young, confident two year old male who approaches another confident male dog who is six years of age, may present the owner with some issues. Likewise, a young female dog could be regarded as competition for a senior female dog. Or is the female dog about to come into season, is in season or recently finished? Likewise, is the male dog intact, boisterous or not (neutered)?

There are leash handling skills that you can practice when walking your dog. This technique maximises the options available for your dog.

Prevention is always better than intervention.

And finally, every behaviour that our dogs display is a natural behaviour, it’s only in the domestic environment that they are unwelcome. By understanding your dog, you can begin to address the behaviours which you feel are necessary in order to live in harmony with your dog and all those around you.

Dog Behaviourist are well placed to help you with your concerns regarding why your dog behaves in less than positive ways. At Dog Trainers Kent, we have many years of experience in helping owners modify and manage their dogs’ behaviour. If this is of interest, then accompanied walks are a great way to begin your new journey together. Please complete the contact form for further information and assistance.

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  • Mrs D

    Justin turned up at my door to an emotional sobbing wreck 6 months ago when my existing dog looked like he was never going to accept our new puppy, he gave me the tools and confidence to enable me to take back control and we never looked back. They are now inseparable and I honestly don't think that would be the case if I hadn't have called Justin that day. I really can't recommend him highly enough.

    Louie & Maisie

  • Paul & Selina.

    Gidea Park, Romford

    We reached out to Justin for advice regarding our newly acquired 10 month old German shorthaired Pointer who had separation anxiety and was a nervous dog. Personal visit and subsequent support has been first class. Would highly recommend.

  • Jayne and Jeff.

    Wickham Bishops, Essex.

    After Justin’s visit, we both gained confidence to take Dave, our dog out during the day and stop avoiding triggers but deal with them. There was an immediate change in our (and of course Dave’s ) attitude and behaviour!

    The “Leadership Program” is genius and something we return to whenever feeling overwhelmed.

    Without being too melodramatic, we would like to say Justin’s visit changed our lives and we now have a perfectly imperfect little dog that’s happy and healthy.

    Eternally thankful to Justin.

  • Garrie. Bexley, Kent

    We rescued a Rottie /Douge de Bordeaux cross puppy who was taken from his mum at 6 weeks and we were his third home in the first 3 months. We were having issues with bitting and control with Rolo, despite being a very handsome and cute boy. He was growing rapidly and now weighing 4 1/2 stone and his puppy mouthing/nipping was getting very painful. He was playfully out of control when we got visitors, compounded by having very few during lockdown. Having spent most of his life in kennels he was struggling to know where to go to the toilet, often just weeing where he stood.

    Justin immediately controlled Rolos behaviour on entry. He worked with us using different techniques to ensure he understood his place in the pack”. The program was totally focused on both our behaviour and his, explaining at every turn what our actions mean to Rolo. We also went for a walk and was given walking and training techniques which we put in place daily. Justins advice of nutrition was superb and we are moving to feed upon his advice. We have seen an immediate impact.

    We highly recommend Justin. The program has given us the confidence, knowledge and ability to take on and bring up a very large boisterous dog giving him clear boundaries as to behaviour and a level of contentment to his place in the pack with us as his pack leader. We cant thank Justin enough
    Rolo
  • Stephen.

    Surrey.

    We first contacted Justin on the advice of our breed owners club. We had taken on a 3 year old Sealyham Terrier and were struggling with her aggression and nervousness. Although we had had dogs before, we hadn't encountered these issues before and were really losing confidence in our ability to manage her. Justin spent a couple of hours with us, assessing our dog and discussing strategies with us. His advice was clear and easy to follow. We quickly found that it made a huge and positive impact on the dog's behaviour, and on our confidence. We are now in a much better place and our dog has really adjusted. I would recommend Justin without hesitation.”

  • Natalie.

    Romford, Essex

    Early last year we had a few  issues with our 2 year old Cockapoo, Molly.  She had just started snapping and lunging at us and we were becoming anxious of her.  Justin interacted with Molly as soon as he arrived watching her all the time and gaining an understanding of her behaviour.  It was quiet and insight when he explained to us his observations of her.   From the moment he left Molly was already calmer.  Justin provided a thorough report with lots of ideas and rules.  We followed his advice and I have to say Molly is now a loving dog.

    Justins approach was very professional and he had a fountain of knowledge. He never made you feel that you were bad "dog parents," he just showed you different ways to do and look at things.  He also explained a dogs behaviour which again was very useful.  Sometimes you know what you should be doing and why, but it is not always easy to put in practice but Justin provided the tools for us to do this.

    Highly recommend Justin
  • The Pearce family.


    Tonbridge, Kent

    We found the dog training experience very insightful, the constant challenge of Buddy pulling on the lead whilst on walks was both tiring and stressful and made taking him out a chore. Hearing feedback on the necessary steps to take and the appropriate lead choice for his temperament has really allowed walking to become an enjoyment. Knowing when to keep him under control and when to allow freedom was important for both the enjoyment of us and the enjoyment of Buddy. Justin's friendly and non-judgemental approach really gave us the confidence to be able to address all problems large and small. We would highly recommend him”

    Buddy

    Buddy

  • Mrs Dawson

    Maldon, Essex

    After having many difficulties when walking our dog particularly with pulling and showing aggression on the lead - we were recommended to Dog Training in Kent. Justin presented a genuine interest from our first phone call and was prepared to travel some miles to visit us. Justin remained professional as he asked lots of questions to establish Lottie's routine and diet. It was when we walked Lottie that he was able to see the overall picture of how we respond to her and of course her behaviour. Justin then changed her harness to one he had brought along which has since proved invaluable. He was able to give us guidance in how to train Lottie by using a variety of sound, movement and assertiveness. We have received a summary which helps us move forward with a renewed hope and confidence. We also have the option of having Justin back for another visit. We would highly recommend this service for anyone needing help with their dog - and we would like to thank Justin for his help.

    Lottie & Maisie

  • Sally

    Maidstone Kent

    Justin came to our house when we first got our puppy at 4 months old and spent a lot of time going through everything we wanted to know about having a puppy at home and left us an easy to follow programme. Within 2 minutes of arriving at our house, our puppy was in the palm of his hand! We went out for a walk and he showed us how to get the best from walk time and explained what our puppy needed. Since then we have called him several times and he has come to our assistance, in fact we are looking to book another visit shortly to go through the next stage of our puppys life as she is now 8 months old! We highly recommend Justin to anyone who wants to do the best for their dog, he explains things clearly, is always at the end of the phone, and our dog loves him!!!

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