I stumbled upon this article and well, its pretty empowering topic near and dear to my heart.
When I get asked about how to properly socialize my dog and especially with other dogs and people, I normally reply that I don't. Well, not EXACTLY don't. I don't teach my dogs to leap merrily to everyone, heck, I don't even teach them to sit and politely accept petting from a stranger specifically. I don't find it necessary and several of my dogs do NOT like it. Would you like it? Someone walks up to you and pats you enthusiastically on the head? NO!
So I basically banished it from my basic training and instead taught my dog first that I would protect them in public. That they could count on me. That even if I was asking something difficult or stressful of them, that they could count on me to keep them safe and get out of the scenario at the first moment that was feasible - not in a flailing panic of course. And with that comes confidence for you and your dog.
Once you have that level of confidence, THEN you can work on easy things that your dog knows at home such as sit, stay, down, etc. Once they understand that the world is not scary and that you're going to ask them to do things they know and are ready to do in public, THEN you work on skills at home such as sitting while a person approaches. THEN that progresses to public places with people you CAN control - training classes are good for this as everyone has similar goals and you can brief them ahead of time.
I don't care if anyone ever emphatically pets my dog on the head - but we're prepared if someone slips through my radar. Granted, as a by product of learning to "stand or sit for exam" my dogs can "take" the petting along with the confidence I've instilled in them. The best part about all of this is your dog learns to focus on the task at hand, whether that is an obedience trial, a trip to the vet, an agility run through, or a picnic at Uncle Phil's place. This is much better than worrying (you and the dog!)
Remember, its your dog! Its your friend! Its your job to help them navigate our scary messed up human world and to succeed!
Happy weekend everyone!
Hi there! Just a training fanatic here writing about the things going on around DogJoy Central!