Not all dogs maybe as social as yours

As a trainer in the desert I work with all types of problems. One of the biggest problems is aggression. This can be due to lack of socialization or rescue dogs that have been isolated from the world and or abused. There are many different reasons for socialization problems. This article is not so much to focus on why the dogs are aggressive towards people or animals, but for the people who may encounter these animals while out and about.

When working with these animals I give the owners homework that requires them to take their dogs out for walks and to different social settings. My request to the people that have a well socialized dog is to not assume all dogs are like yours. My biggest complaint from clients is when they are working with their dog other people with social dogs try to approach them and carry on a conversation while letting their dogs approach into the less social dog’s space.

That is our focus today, Space.

We all like our personal space and as a society we do pretty well at respecting each others , however when it comes to our animals we don’t think about their personal space. Animals, like people, enjoy their personal space. Animals with social issues need their personal space because it’s about trust. If you went somewhere and people did not respect your personal space you would consider those people rude. You may even become angry or afraid in an over stimulating situation. Dogs that have these trust issues become reactive in situations. If a dog is already fearful and another dog or human approaches, it can automatically react in an aggressive way. This could be snapping, barking, or growling to let the offender know they have come to close. While working with an aggressive dog the other day we encountered some people and they asked about the dog. One person tried to approach with their hand extended out to the dog for it to smell. Even though the dog was muzzled and the person was told it was aggressive they still wanted to approach the dog. This hurts our efforts to teach the dog to trust.

The best way to approach an animal is to just stand there ignore it and let it decide when it wants to engage with you, not the other way around. We have been taught for years to introduce ourselves to a dog you extend your hand for the dog to smell, this is a great way to get your hand bitten. If a dog is social you will see that it is excited to see you and there is no reason to extend your hand, if it is not, that is when people usually extend their hand to help the dog feel more comfortable but in reality you are encroaching on their personal space and this can lead to an act of aggression. If a dog tries to move away from the situation and the person moves toward the dog, still having their hand extended, this gives a dog no other option then to respond in an aggressive manner.

Another problem out there is retractable leashes. Even social dogs have limits. Some dogs don’t like other dogs jumping up into their face and they will snap at the other dog to get them to stop. The owners may get mad at that dog because it stated what it wanted, his space. That’s not fair to the dog whose space is being encroached upon and we are not teaching the other dog appropriate social manners. This mainly happens with the retractable leashes. Retractable leashes are good for country walking, not city walking. They are a great tool to teach “come”; no longer do we have to pull in 30 feet of line. But when you are walking in a neighborhood, on a trail, side walk, parks or anywhere there are people and dogs, you should have your dog on a 4 to 6 foot leash so you have control at all times.

When you pass other people or dogs you should pull the leash in and have your dog walk by your side so it does not jump on them or another dog. When we walk in a group and pass people we are polite and move into a single or double file so others may pass easily. We need to apply the same rules for our dogs. So next time you are out for a walk with or without your dog remember your social etiquette with dogs so you can help people that are helping their dogs to deal with their socialization problems and become a well balance animal in the future.

Valerie Masi
Best Paw Forward

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