This is a massive subject and one that I think most (if not ALL) dog trainers feel passionately about, with probably hugely varying views on what is and isn’t acceptable dog walking/puppy walking etiquette. Essentially, we all want the same thing, to walk our dogs/puppies in a positive and relaxed way making sure ALL dogs have a pleasant and fun experience. We can achieve this, if we give each other the consideration we all deserve.
We all want our puppies to meet new people, dogs and animals. It’s a vital part of socialisation and crucial for a pups development. We want our puppies to develop fluent and appropriate social skill and to be well mannered, and to be as sociable as is possible for that individual dog. I think we can safely say we ALL aspire to give our puppies the very best start in this regard.
However……throwing your puppy out there into the world to play with every dog he meets in the dog park is not the best way, and can actually be quite damaging. Even the most confident of puppies can be bowled over, overwhelmed, or startled by a big, overexcited and quite frankly rude adult dog.
Try to remember when encouraging social interactions, you’re looking for your puppy to mix with well mannered and highly sociable adult dogs, to not only educate your puppy on canine communication, but to aid in your pups confidence building too. Puppy play dates are lovely, and certainly a good idea, puppies can teach each other essential social skills they will need throughout life. However, puppy play is by it’s very nature…..crazy! Most puppies haven’t fully developed the ability to ‘know when to stop’, arousal levels escalate extremely quickly, and this can fast develop into a bit of a stressful situation for both puppies. If your puppy is limited to purely puppy play dates or meetings he’s never really getting the chance to learn that actually, as an adult dog, we don’t play quite so roughly, we generally try to adapt our play style to the dog we’re playing with, and most importantly if a dog is saying ‘no, I don’t wish to interact’, you listen!! And you find another play partner.
Always remember, you MUST ask another owner if it is ok for your puppy to say hello to their dog, never ever allow your puppy to run up to another on lead dog. Puppies are wonderful, of course, but they are often lacking in manners at such a young age, and many adult dogs simply will not tolerate such overexcitement and enthusiasm. And we don’t want to put your puppy off social interactions! Politely ask if your puppy can meet another dog, if the answer is yes, fantastic, let them have a little sniff on a loose lead and if appropriate a little game. Keep calling your puppy back to you throughout, to ensure focus is on you whenever you need it, also helping to keep excitement levels down. Keep an eye on the situation, are both dogs enjoying the game? Does either one look like they have had enough? Are either trying to get out of the situation? Watch your dog, keep an eye on what he is doing, he is your responsibility and you don’t want him getting himself into trouble. At such a young age, they rely on you heavily to keep everything safe and under control, as they are unable to.
If another owner says ‘no, my dog isn’t too fond of puppies’, great! You can use this opportunity to practice some self control with your puppy, encouraging him to sit calmly, whilst you have a quick chat. Rewarding the sits/downs and the focus and attention he gives you. Encouraging calmness around other dogs is CRUCIAL. We don’t want our dogs thinking they will play/interact with every single dog they see, it’s not realistic and sets your puppy up for a lot of disappointment! And sets you up for a lot of lunging and pulling to other dogs.
One idea is the ‘1 in 3’ rule, essentially this means when you are out walking with your puppy, he meets 1 in 3 dogs he sees, the other 2 he must either walk by calmly, or sit with his focus on you until the dog has passed. Always ensure you have asked the other owner if it is ok for your puppy to say hello. This can be quite a nice way of getting your puppy used to walking by dogs you see in the street, without lots of lunging and pulling to meet every single dog you see.
Enjoy your pups new experiences, make them positive and make them fun, just be aware of what you, your puppy and other dogs are doing. Your pup is YOUR responsibility and he is relying on you to make the right choices for him at such a young age. All the manners you teach now, will stay with him for life, and we all want well mannered and socially fluent adult dogs.
If you are in any doubt at all, about anything I’ve discussed, get in touch! I, like many other dog owners, am passionate about ensuring all dogs have happy and fulfilled lives, whilst ensuring the safety and happiness of others too. We ALL deserve to have an enjoyable time with our dogs, whatever our situation and whatever our dogs temperament.