Likely the most difficult part of my job as a dog trainer is centered around getting some dog owners to realize that they don’t need to have a dog-park-dog. Some call with very real, attainable expectations like “He’s had some bad experiences around other dogs, but we would like him to be fine if other dogs run up to him when we are hiking off leash.” Other well-meaning people want their dog to go to daycare, despite their dog’s utter disdain for other dogs.
—Some dogs don’t love being around other dogs for long periods of time and that’s ok.—
Last week I had a client tell me how incredibly happy she was to learn that it’s ok for her dog to not want to be a social butterfly around other dogs. Before starting training with me her friends would insist that she bring her dog over for playdates. The first play session was bad, the 2nd resulting in one dog needing stitches and the 3rd was even worse. By session five she said it was like watching a UFC fight. Don’t let your well-meaning friends coerce you into doing something you are not comfortable with.
—Taking a dog who does not enjoy other dogs to a BBQ with other dogs, balls, sticks, and people to guard is like taking a friend who just started alcoholics anonymous to a bar for …wings. —
My career has been built on rehabilitating aggressive dogs, and many of them have been pushed into social interactions that were too overwhelming for them to navigate without the use of their teeth.
It’s my belief that all dogs should be able to tolerate other dogs when approached by another dog, but expecting every dog to want to play and run with every dog they see is insane.
Some dogs are fine to have one or two doggy friends who they are fine with, but don’t have much desire for making new friends. I see this all the time with clients dogs. They have doggie friends they grew up with as puppies and they are the best of friends, but they feel intimidated by new dogs.
My dogs have helped me rehabilitate close to 1000 aggressive dogs over the years, and yet I wouldn’t consider them extremely dog social dogs. They are great around other dogs, but they don’t really like playing very often. They have each other, they have me and my wife and daughter, and that cool with them. At the park, if another dog approaches, they don’t seek new friends, they just say hello and keep walking.
—Your dog doesn’t need to have as many friends as you do–
Do right by your dog. They don’t need to be a dog park dog or a doggy daycare dog. Give them a job to do, keep their minds occupied, and love them, that’s what they need most.
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