Some people take their dogs to day care. Some go to training classes. Some go to the dog park. Others meet dogs when out on walks. There are a variety of ways and places to meet other dogs these days. But which one is the best choice?
If you are a dog training pro, you will already know the answer. “It depends!”
There is no one best way for all dogs to greet, but there are some things you should consider. I hear many people say they take their dogs to the dog park to socialize them. While the dog park can be a great way to keep your dog socialized, it is NOT the best to begin socialization. There is not enough structure and control at a dog park, so one traumatic event for your dog can create a difficult problem to overcome.
Just as with dog parks, dog day cares can also be overwhelming for some dogs. The upside is that, if it is a well-run day care (and not all of them are!) there is better supervision and attention toward preventing problems from developing. Again, this is not always the case.
Dog training classes sometimes allow socialization, but some do not. So whether your dog is getting face-to-face socialization in a class depends on the situation.
Many of my clients’ dogs meet other dogs when out on walks in their neighborhood. While this might seem like a better option, that’s not always the case. I do like that it is a one-on-one situation, so there should not be the overwhelming factor as there might be in a day care or dog park setting. However, the problem here is that the dogs are on leash. For dogs that are already friends and get along well, meeting on leash might be just fine. However, if your dog is meeting a new dog for the first time, a face-to-face meeting on leash is often not a good way to introduce dogs.
Why is that? Because if a dog feels he is in over his head, his two main options (not the only options) are fight or flight. When a dog is on leash, his flight option has been eliminated. Guess what, that leaves him with the option of fight, even if he doesn’t want to fight. On leash greetings can often create too much tension for dogs to handle, which can result in a dog fight. And if leashes get tangled, it can be very difficult to break up a fight.
While I understand why many people do allow their dogs to greet when on leash, I do not encourage a lot of it. If people do, I encourage them to keep the greetings very very brief. If you do allow your dog to greet other dogs on leash, you should learn how to do it properly so as to limit the possibility of a fight breaking out.
If you do choose to allow your dog to greet others on leash, I will discuss some ways to reduce tension and a possible fight in another post. For now, though, I am going to ask you to reconsider whether or not you really need or want to do this. In Romeo’s case, he is NOT allowed to greet unknown dogs when on leash. I do allow it only with a few of his friends that he already knows well.