By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind
When you think of a properly socialized pup, you think of one who is comfortable around both people and dogs, but can still focus on their owners. All we really want is for our dogs to like each other and to listen when we’re talking to them. Below are some ways to make that happen.
Enroll your dog in a basic obedience class. You don’t want a class that focuses on play or dog-to-dog interaction, but rather one that teaches your dog to focus on YOU in the presence of other dogs. While your trainer is teaching you the basics, your dog is learning 1) that every dog isn’t their playmate, and 2) that you are far more exciting than other dogs anyway because you are the Dispenser of All Good Things (i.e., treats and attention).
Let your dog participate in controlled and friendly play. If you have a friend or family member with an appropriate dog, invite them over for a playdate. Keep your play group small, with two or three dogs at the most, and try to make sure that they’re approximately the same size/age/activity level (believe me when I tell you that your elderly chihuahua will not appreciate the company of a 9 month old golden retriever puppy with giant paws). Remember to break up play at least every 5 minutes, to help keep your dog focused on you. If you ever feel uncomfortable with what you’re seeing, it’s okay to stop the session. You can give them a little while to calm down, or you can choose to leave. Your gut is more reliable than you think. There is a fantastic app by Sue Sternberg called the Dog Park Assistant; it will help you identify appropriate and non-appropriate behaviors, and when to break up play if you aren’t sure.
There are a ton of other tips and tricks to try. Contact a reputable local trainer if you are looking for more options or would feel more comfortable with professional supervision and advice during your first few play groups.