Today, I’m at home doing some work and trying to get up the nerve to take my dog for a walk in the rain. I hope the weather is better where you are! I thought that while I was waiting around inside I would write up a few blog posts. One topic that comes to mind right now, primarily because I’ve been emailing back and forth with a potential client, is this one: your dog’s friends need to be chosen, not happened upon accidentally.
How do dogs get friends accidentally? Well, this can happen at the dog park, on the trail, or just around the neighborhood. People and their dogs happen to be in those places, and your dog gets together with them as a result. This works fine often, maybe even a majority of the time. But just because you’ve put two dogs together without any regard for personality or character doesn’t mean that they don’t think about those traits. A neighbor with a dominant, rough dog isn’t thinking that his dog will pair better with calm animals. He only wants his dog to learn to play better, and as a result he matches his dog with yours. If your dog is overly boisterous, then you’ve got a dogfight on your hands.
You choose your friends based on their character, and not everyone you meet is a good match for you. Even the most friendly people in the world don’t gel with everybody. So why do we expect that from our dogs? Why do we take them to a dog park and expect them to get along with all these new “friends”?
Think about the worst-case scenario if you’re at a cocktail party or a restaurant. If you don’t gel with someone, you can calmly walk away, phase them out, or ignore them. Millions of people all over the world do these things every day when they’re around other people who make them uncomfortable, rarely feeling any need to resort to violence.
Well, guess what—when you attempt to socialize your dogs, you’re putting him out there with creatures who have sharp teeth in their mouths. That’s like going to a cocktail party where a lot of the people are mentally unstable and carrying a handful of knives. That’s a party I wouldn’t want to go to, but that’s exactly what a dog park is like!
In some ways, dogs and people socialize similarly. But we’re also very different. When things go sour, dogs are very willing to quickly resort to their base instincts. Some dogs you meet are friendly, and others are just nuts, either because of genetics or lack of training. On top of that, they’re carrying around deadly weapons and are pretty quick on the draw with them.
You need to be the one choosing your dog’s friends, and you need to do so carefully. Watch for body language, train your dog, and search out other owners that care about their dog’s behavior. Don’t go into the dog park. When you’re in another place that dogs are running around everywhere, don’t just let your dog play with everybody. If we let our dogs mingle, the situation will often end poorly. In fact, a majority of the aggression that we see started at the dog park.
Don’t let your dog feel like he needs to resort to aggression! Choose his friends wisely, and he’ll thank you for it later.