Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nose to Nose is a No No

As all of us know, socialization is vital to a well adjusted dog. Every dog, regardless of breed, should be well socialized with not only humans but with various dogs as well. Owning a Bully Breed can present unique challenges when it comes to dog-dog interactions however and owners of these breeds need to be extra vigilant to make sure they are acting responsibly and in the best interest of their pets. 

This is where proper introductions come into play and how we introduce our pets with new animals is an important step in future interactions.

Nose to Nose can be a No No.
Just because dogs gather most of their information about other dogs from their noses, does not mean that your dog has to greet every dog, nor that every dog has to greet yours. 
Things such as:
  • Facing off
  • Tangled Leashes
  • Rude or disrespectful dogs
  • Unexpected aggressive reactions
Can lead to harmful as well as counterproductive situations, not to mention possibly setting your dog up for failure.
We love our dogs, and their success is our success.
  •  You are in control when it comes to who gets to greet your dog. Don't feel bad about saying no, it is not rude, it is responsible. 
  • If your dog is being reactive, keep walking. If the other dog is being  reactive, keep walking.
  • Know your dog's personality and be picky.
  • If your dog tolerates other dogs walking by praise and move on. Lingering to long can turn a good situation into a bad one.
  • Learn your dog's personality. The better you know your pet, the better you can select potential play partners that will keep your pet happy, social and positive.

Example one: Puppy introductions
When you have a puppy they are generally very social, very tolerant and very excited to meet new dogs. They love every one.To give them the best experiences we make sure that dogs who greet them are tolerant as well as fully vaccinated. This may mean that puppy only greets the other dogs at the rescue as well as friends or neighbors dogs until they are up to date on shots, and out of those dogs, only the ones that are stable and tolerant will get to interact with the puppy. Puppies need to learn manners in a safe and appropriate way and other dogs are great teachers. Hand picking those teachers is vital.
Get puppy into age appropriate obedience classes where you have other responsible owners as well as an instructor who can help monitor interactions and give you tips on teaching puppy good social skills.

Example two: Leash reactive/dog selective dog
Teach your dog to Ignore. Sometimes the best introductions are no introductions at all. Use food rewards to gain your dog's attention and either have them sit and look at you, or hold treat in closed fist  in front of dog and continue walking in opposite direction. (of course give your dog the treat when they walk with you or give you their attention :)You never want to let an excited or frustrated dog meet another dog. If your dog won't calm or becomes reactive as a dog approaches then simply ignore and move on. Don't ever feel like you need to stop and let an introduction happen. A scuffle may create more of a problem later and amplify your dogs behavior. Instead of focusing on getting your dog to meet other dogs, with a dog reactive dog, it is best to focus your training on getting your dog to be calm and unresponsive while on walks. Even if your dog never gets to the point of being able to greet strange dogs, it will be a win if your dog simply ignores them.

Example three: Rude/disrespectful greeter
What if your dog is the one who has little social etiquette and does not respect strange dogs boundaries?
Being a responsible pet owner means teaching your dog how to greet properly or not to greet at all. Strange dogs may not tolerate rude behavior and may react poorly to a dog who rushes towards them, gets into their face or goes straight to their rear. Rather then making excuses about how "friendly" your dog is at it strains on the leash towards a strange dog practically pulling you along with him, it may be time to admit that maybe your dog needs to learn some social graces before they rush up to a dog who is not going to tolerate that sort of interaction. Enrolling in an age appropriate obedience class will give you the opportunity to learn as well as be around other owners that your dog can practice with, all under the supervision of a dog trainer.

Dog Parks
Socialization should be conducted on your terms and under a very supervised eye so that it benefits your dog and their development rather then setting them up for possible failure. Dog parks are not the best situation for Bully Breeds. We encourage bully owners to find alternative ways to exercise their dogs or provide them with social opportunities. Your dog may be highly social and friendly, yet with so many off leash dogs, you can not guarantee that a strange dog will be as social. If there is an issue, and your dog does get into a scuffle, this can create a negative experience and may make your dog more guarded about strange dogs.
We suggest being very selective about the dogs your dog greets, so they can enjoy the experience,  keep it positive.Dogs can have great friendships but you have to take it slow and make sure that play is supervised and stays fun for all.

Interested in learning more about greeting strange dogs if your a bully owner?

Here are some more sources with great information.
Bad Rap on Dog Parks
Bad Rap on Socialization

We will have more blogs about introductions later, including introducing your foster dog to resident dogs.

1 comment:

  1. Love it! It's so true: every interaction matters and one bad interaction can set a precedent of future fearful/aggressive behavior. For some dogs that only react to head-on greetings, I'll let them greet the dog the way dogs like to: nose to butt. This takes significant cooperation from someone who has a sound dog but can help. I really like that you stated the truth so clearly: sometimes saying "NO" to a greeting is the best and most responsible thing. Great article, I can't wait for more!