Interaction with the Public and Other Dogs
Meet and Greet from Puppies to Adults
As we all know the socialization of dogs is important and provides a foundation from puppy-hood. It is the beginning of their exposure. However, we don’t know where our dogs came from, who bred them, what type of lives they had before ours, how the breeder raised them, or how and if they interacted with their litter-mates.
All of these factors, along with genetics and the nerve of the dog help to mold it’s temperament. Some of this is learned behavior, some of it is genetic. Regardless of either, the dog in front of you is the dog you have now and its your job to be able to read your dog, assess its behavior, understand how it interacts with people and dogs, and provide leadership along with training.
Most importantly, it’s very important to elevate the dogs “human pack drive”. You want your dog to establish strong relationships with you and other humans moreover than other dogs. By setting yourself as the dogs primary caregiver, fun partner, and pack leader you will be establishing a bond with your dog.
How to introduce a dog to a stranger:
Puppy exposure to humans is a must. The same holds true for exposure to the environment, surfaces, noises, weather, cars, animals, and crating.
More often I see people introducing their puppy to strangers without ever realizing that they are making the puppy uncomfortable. Through repetition, the puppy will develop an aversion to people and possibly some reactivity issues, like barking, lunging, nipping, avoidance etc.
Bring the puppy to face level. Let the puppy seek out the attention of the stranger. Additionally, you can show the puppy to the stranger and don’t let him be held by anyone but you. Don’t allow him to be passed around like a new cell phone. The feeling of insecurity by being passed around will be negative rather than positive. Don’t allow in your face meetings; rather, normal tone, treats or rewards, and calm petting is the best introduction.
If your puppy is on the floor, allow him to go to the stranger. The stranger should not approach the puppy. Coming into the dogs space can be a sign of dominance. Direct eye contact, bending down into the puppy’s face, or reaching over the top of the puppy's head creates insecurity in the puppy because you are showing dominance to the puppy. The puppy should always feel secure and confident. That is your job as handler. You want to make sure your kids are confident and feel protected by their parents, the dog should feel the same. The same holds true for adult dogs or fearful dogs.
Do not put your puppy/dog into loud places or areas where there is a lot of activity. Don’t push fearful situations but rather, hang back, let the puppy investigate on his own, limit what you say to not distract the puppy and once the puppy has recovered from the fearful situation, praise the puppy for the confident behavior it is currently showing, not the fearful one by telling him it’s okay.
Meet and Greet with Another Dog:
By now, you have your socialization done from puppy-hood. If you didn’t put the socialization on the dog, you are dealing with the after effects of what was done with the dog.
I get asked all the time, ”how can I make my dog more friendly so he plays with the next door neighbors dog.”
My reply is always, why? It’s not necessary your dog play with other dogs. You dog should be social with other dogs, show confident not aggressive or reactive behaviors, but should be indifferent to other dogs. It’s not our desire to create dog pack behavior; but rather, to increase our human pack behavior.
Therefore, my dogs do not play with other dogs nor do they have play dates. I am their play date and I am their fun. If I have other dogs that live in my house, those are their family members and they can play with them.
When you have your dog meet another dog, most owners have no clue how to read their dog. They say, oh my dog is friendly and he comes up to your dog and sticks his nose in his butt to the point where I see my dog is uncomfortable, why would I want to put my dog in that position? So the next door neighbor's dog can play with my dog at my dogs expense?
Additionally, I cannot control how unfamiliar dogs or people will approach my dog, and I don’t trust the owners to control their own dog.. If they can’t get their dog to walk nicely on a leash; how do I expect them to control their dog if a fight ensues?
My dogs have confidence in me and trust me. They trust that I will not put them in an uncomfortable position. They trust that I will not let another dog challenge them or make them uncomfortable. They trust that I will not allow another person to pull my dogs tail, poke it’s ear, or cause undue harm.
Can I Pet Your Dog?
My next question I’m asked is : “Oh, can I pet your dog”. Did you ever say Why? Did you ever think what’s in it for me or my dog?
I’m sure my dog could care less if a stranger pets him or her. Yet, I care greatly because I have everything to lose.
If the stranger spooks my dog for any reason or if my dog becomes uncomfortable with the stranger, the dog learns nothing. The dog feels stress. The dog is not happy. The dog doesn’t feel like it’s being protected. The dog might lash out. Next, Animal Control comes, my dog is possibly taken away, my homeowners is in jeopardy, and I have to pay a fine…..all because some stranger felt the need to pet my dog.
So I ask again, what is in it for me?
My recommendation is to politely say no. if that does not work, be insistent. Do not be concerned if you hurt their feelings. You will find people become rude, offended, and insistent. Now that must really make you wonder why? It’s my dog, it’s my responsibility, and it’s my decision.
In the 20+ years of training, I have heard of many bite cases, most of them could have been avoided if we paid attention to our dog, we read our dogs signs better, we were not concerned with hurting peoples feelings, and we protected our asset. Our dog and freedom to have him or her.
Dogs look to us to be their leader & protector. When this happens, they respect us. We have created a working bond between handler and dog. Consistent training, reinforcement, repetition, and clear communication will provide you with a well balanced dog both in mind and spirit. Maintain that balance and confidence by not allowing people to pet your dog, challenge him, create insecurity, lack of comfort, or reactivity . Don’t put your dog in situations that will destroy his confidence in you as a handler and owner.