Smart Socializing

Test Your Socializing Smarts. Will You Pass?

Socializing: Printable Hand-Out

1. True or False?

Smart Socializing involves setting your dog up for success with only positive dog-dog interactions.

TRUE! - The more positive interaction ANY dog gets with other dogs, the more likely he will develop and maintain dog-tolerant behavior for life.

Right: This female puppy's all-positive exposure to this well-socialized adult dog was planned for her benefit. She grew up to be a 'Dog Selective' adult meaning, she's easily offended by rude behavior from strange dogs, but she enjoys many trusted dog friends for play and socializing fun.

2. True or False?

Dog Parks are a dependable place for positive dog-dog socializing opportunities.

FALSE! - While Dog Parks can be fun, they also bring plenty of NEGATIVE interactions by forcing your pet to come up against dogs that might be overly stimulated, short-tempered, outwardly aggressive or otherwise badly managed. Smart Socializing means keeping your friend dog-tolerant, and that involves AVOIDING dicey situations where conflict can spark.

3. True or False?

‘My dog is really good with my brother’s dog. Is it true that he’ll be good with all other dogs?’

FALSE! - The friendship your dog has worked out with your brother’s dog will not necessarily translate to other dogs. It would be completely normal for him to be very picky about which dogs he likes and what kind of rude behavior he'll accept from other dogs.
Left: These housemate dogs are great pals, but one is 'Dog Aggressive' with strange dogs, one is 'Dog Selective,' while the third dog is completely 'Dog Social.' When you want to socialize your dog, it's very important that you know his individual limits so you don't set him up for a bad experience. Read About Dog Tolerance Levels

4. True or False?

Opposite sex housemate dogs tend to have fewer problems than same sex pairings, especially when both are fixed.

TRUE! - When looking for a second dog or a playmate for your dog, start by searching for well socialized dogs of the opposite sex. More Info on Selecting Dog Friends

Did You Know? A study on dog aggression found that problems between housemate dogs are far more common with same-sex pairs. This is especially true for female pairs. Study


5. True or False?

I heard it’s okay to go to the dog park until the first fight, then you can quit going with no harm done.

FALSE! - A dog’s first fight is always the one you want to avoid. Why? A bad fight can make a huge impression on your dog and cause him to have a shorter fuse the next time a dog-dog conflict comes up. Dogs learn from their bad experiences just like we do, so it’s best to protect them from conflict.

TIP: Protect Your Dog from a Bad Dog-Dog Experience.

Dogs don't need to 'prove' that they can be buddy-buddy with all other dogs!

A Good Goal: Make sure your dog can calmly tolerate the presence of other dogs when he's on-leash.

Another Good Goal: If your dog can handle exciting dog-play, develop a small handful of favorite play partners for supervised fun in safe, contained areas.

Above: After common-sense intros, these adults have all gotten to know each other well enough that they can enjoy supervised play sessions together. Avoiding the Dog Parks has helped them stay well-socialized because they've never been pushed past their limits and set up to fail. Who needs dicey Dog Parks when small groups of dog friends can have so much fun?


6. True or False?

A good way to socialize a pit bull is to let him walk up and greet dogs that he doesn’t know during his walks.

FALSE! - Leash greets can be a very challenging way for any two strange dogs to meet and a sure bet way to set the wrong two personalities up for a loud argument. Also, allowing your dog to do this will encourage him to pull like crazy towards any dog he sees. The tension that builds from the excitement of a rushed greeting can escalate into leash aggression for him and yanked shoulders for you  Not good!

Right: This handler is rewarding her dog for ignoring the passing dog. With practice, her dog will be able to stay calm and ignore other dogs on-leash without any prompting. No more pulling at the leash to see dogs, and, the public gets to see perfect manners!

TIP: Practice Defensive Driving with Your Dog:

If someone insists on rushing their dog up to meet yours, just hold out your hand, step in front of your dog, smile brightly and say, "Sorry! We're in training right now!" Don't be shy - It's our responsibility as dog owners to protect our pets from potentially negative experiences. It's perfectly OKAY for your dog not to greet every dog he encounters.


Smart Socializing Involves:

1. Obedience Classes where he gets used to acting calm and relaxed around other dogs without the pressure of leash greets.
2. Structured Play Sessions in safe, contained areas with other known dogs. Dogs are like people, most of us like having a few close friends that we trust and enjoy. And like people, good friendships come from familiarity and develop over time.

Smart Tips for Introducing Two Dogs for a Play Session:

Mature dogs (one year old and up) do best with dogs of the opposite sex. Take your time and introduce new dogs in measured baby steps. Avoid rushed greets! Socially mature dogs should meet on neutral turf like a city street with a long side-by-side walk to help break the ice and get them used to each other’s scent and presence. Some dogs (puppyish dogs or very well socialized dogs) can play with new friends almost immediately; others may take weeks or months before they get to this stage. Some may never get to the point where they can play with other dogs. That’s okay - For them, just being calm, tolerant and well behaved while on-leash is a very worthwhile goal. If you stage it well, a good first intro between mature dogs will be rather uneventful. The goal is to help them get familiar with each other without allowing any physical contact. They can work up to having more contact over the next few days or weeks. With time, familiarity will lesson their excitement level and pave the way for a smooth relationship.

NOTE: In BAD RAP, it can take many days before a mature foster dog can play with other mature dogs. The slower we take things, the fewer problems we see and the more long-term success we can enjoy.

On the day that you finally decide to let dogs have full contact with each other, make sure both are well exercised and well acquainted. Remove all toys and food items. Keep leashes on and when they seem relaxed, drop the leashes. This moment of faith can be scary, but if you’ve laid some good groundwork with slow intros and good obedience training, your dogs should enjoy having the opportunity to finally interact. As they sniff each other, keep your voice happy and confident and praise them for showing relaxed body language. Practice calling them back to you to make sure they’re still under voice control. If you see either dog stiffen or the hair on their back puff up (‘hackles’) calmly step in, leash them up and try again another day. If the dogs start to play, use your voice to keep things calm and to prevent them from getting too aroused. Don’t allow mounting or toy-tugging during these first few play sessions.

If a scuffle does break out, you haven’t failed! You may have just pushed things too fast. It may be best to lower your expectations and take things slower, or hold off on any more greets and call in a trainer to help you. It’s not unusual to have a couple of minor snarfs as dogs get to know each other, but it benefits everybody to keep those to a bare minimum.

As a rule, it’s always best to end intro sessions when things are going well. Don’t wait until the dogs have played so hard that they become over aroused or so tired that one or both get grumpy. Instead, end the play on a positive note and lavish praise on everybody for doing well - including yourself!

Above: This male/female pair took a nice side by side get-acquainted walk before being allowed to make contact. It's clear from their body language that they're relaxed and really enjoying each other. Once you see this kind of signaling from both dogs, it's generally okay to drop the leashes and let the pair play.



Securing the future of America's 'blocky dogs' as a cherished family companions.