Author Topic: Dog to Dog Socialising  (Read 2402 times)

Offline Bunter

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Dog to Dog Socialising
« on: July 21, 2010, 17:01:41 PM »
There is a thread running on DP about how to socialise dogs with other dogs and the dangers of letting your own dog meeting every other dog in the park.  Someone asked about how your dog was supposed to become sociable if you didn't let it meet other dogs.  This is my friend's very interesting reply.  I have received permission from her to post it here:

Sure, that is the theory. But IME, a general 'let's say hello to every dog who happens to come our way' is not the best way to achieve that socialisation. It works for some dogs, maybe, but in the case of all three of the dogs I've ever owned, it's made them more scared & worried, because there was no guarantee that the other dog and mine would enjoy meeting each other (for any number of reasons, age / fitness / playfulness mismatch, inability to read each other's intentions correctly, which is very common with undersocialised dogs, etc). So, what can happen is that your undersocialised sensitive dog goes into meetings to start with hoping for the best, but ends up being worried half a dozen times (in very minor incidents which may not have looked like much to the owners, I'm not talking full blown fights here), and ends up deciding for himself (herself) that they don't want to be intimidated any more, and they start drawing a line in the sand about what they can and can't cope with. Usually, that line is drawn where you as owner might not want it to be, so for example it might include not wishing to be approached by off lead dogs whilst they are on lead, EVER, it might include NEVER being sniffed by a lab again, due to being humped once, it might include a prejudice against hairy dogs because the dog can't read them well, definitely no puppies because their teeth hurt, no terriers because they once felt they were being chased by one etc etc.

By letting your undersocialised dog meet all and sundry who are willing to meet them, you are allowing a very wide range of "unfiltered" encounters to swamp your dog. Chances are, if s/he is undersocialised, they won't deal well with that. If a dog is undersocialised they have no 'happy template' against which to read encounters they are having. So, if they have a worrying experience (and that could just mean a very sweet dog running over to them slightly faster than they would like, or meeting a dog unexpectedly round a blind corner), it has a much bigger impact than the same encounter would have to a dog who has a history of hundreds of dog encounters, and who can therefore put it into context.

So, the theory is that it is much better to "filter" their encounters, i.e. let them meet only 'safe' dogs who can be trusted (and whose owners can be trusted), so that eventually, your dog has built up such a strong history of positive experiences only that they then can cope with the less positive meetings, because they have built up a 'template' of positive encounters. I hope this makes sense.

I wish I'd understood this before. My Barney for example was meant to be 'great' with other dogs, 'just ignores them'. So I took him to our local park every day for several months and let him meet & greet the assorted dog population. Or rather, let them meet him, as he always stayed away from them, sniffing. I thought that meant that he wasn't bothered by them. In fact, it meant he had no clue what to do with them, and was taken aback each and every time they barrelled up to him. The sniffing was partly a spaniel trait, sure, but it was also a displacement activity ('don't know what to do - so I'll sniff to calm myself down'). One day that he decided that he would no longer let them barrel up to him  . He now tells other dogs to sod off, unless he is slowly and carefully introduced. He is fine seeing dogs on the lead, because he knows they won't come and bother him. But he feels very anxious now about seeing off lead dogs / meeting random dogs off lead. I feel very bad that I didn't anticipate this happening, and that I thought a 'let him meet all the willing dogs, to get him socialised' approach would be a good idea . He is actually very sweet with dogs he knows, lets them have all the resources, never growls or warns anyone off, is not bothered about having to share space etc. But there is no mistaking the fact that he is very worried about random meets & greets.