Trainer Tip: Successful Off-Leash Socializing

Whoo! No more Winter Hibernation! For many of us dog owners, this makes the outdoors a much more inviting place.  Our dogs must inwardly inwardly rejoice when the sun shines, knowing that trips to the park, games of fetch and walks galore are likely to get a little longer.
If the sunshine means more trips to the dog park for you and your dog, then it's important to understand some of the Dos and Don'ts of doggie socialization.

Not All Dogs Like The Dog Park 
It is not unusual for dogs to become a bit more selective about playmates as they mature. This means that some dogs will have less stressful social experiences when playing with a canine buddy or two, rather than a pack pooches.  Plenty of dogs would just as soon play with you, go for a jog or a swim than enter the canine mosh pit. 

Happy Play = Loose + Wiggly + Balanced  
You should see play bows, paw lifts, equally matched wrestling and chasing to invite and continue playtime.  You might also hear yips and snarks to let a dog know when play is too rough.  You should see dogs backing off when a buddy says, "Ouch!", and frequent breaks in the activity.  It's important to consider just how jazzed up your dog is getting.  Does he check in with you?  Can you call him or redirect his attention? 

If your pet seems tense and alert upon approaching another dog, keep it short or skip it. When you want to call your dog to you, soften your tone, kneel, and angle slightly away from her. This "invitation" is less confrontational and more likely to get the desired response. Now you and your pup are talking the same language, and better communication strengthens the human-dog relationship!

Rude, Dude
Mobbing, teasing, and bullying...a group chasing and cornering one dog, or relentless barking and nipping at a dog that clearly isn't interested.  Yes, even the sweetest pooch can engage in mob mentality! Whether your dog is playing, bullying or being bullied, frequent and calm time-outs are essential to your dog's well-being. Should you feel that your dog isn't playing well with others, then leave the park and find another activity. 

Convenience For You or Fun For Fido?
If your dog is hiding, fighting, avoiding contact with other dogs then consider why you go.  Did you skip training your dog to walk well on leash, to come when called or to play nicely with you?  Is this your time to catch up on texts and emails?  How about some positive training time with your dog, perhaps taking a class or enjoying something fun together?  Set your dog up for successful social interactions...your pooch will thank you!

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