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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dog Park Socialization:
A Pet Solutions Post

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
(c) k.c.
Meet Benny

I am a proud "pet parent" of a 2-year-old rescue pup, Benny. I really have no idea about his history before his life with me. He has successfully completed a few training classes (puppy, obedience, and tricks) and has even gained the reputation around our local pet store of being a very smart dog. When he was a puppy I tried to socialize him to other dogs as much as possible, but he has always seemed to me more interested in being by my side than hanging out with other dogs.

We have recently been so fortunate to have a brand new dog park open in our city and it has been a wonderful thing for our whole community. Now this brings me to my issue with Benny. Although I know he loves being able to get out of the house and go to the dog park four or five times a week, when we get inside the dog park all he seems to care about is what I am doing. 

Many of the other dogs will explore their environments and check out other dogs and people, but Benny rarely even walks more that 5 feet away from me (unless he is chasing the frisbee). He is not a fan of me giving attention to other dogs and tends to get a bit snippy if he thinks another dog gets too close to me. Are there any training tips you might know of that could help in this situation? I just want him to be able to relax and enjoy the other dogs. 

Any advice would be great! Thank you!



Dear Karly:  My favorite topic! I just love dog parks and am fascinated by the art of socializing different dogs. It has been my experience that dogs, just like people, have different needs when it comes to their social lives. Your Blue Heeler mix is definitely one of these, requiring much interaction and mental work, along with a physical job to do. Your Frisbee games are ideal for this high-energy breed.

You'll want to continue to bring Benny to the park to maintain his comfort with being around other dogs, even though he is somewhat aloof in their presence. He is, nevertheless, getting a sense of group comfort that is important if you want to be able to take him with you whenever you're out and about, without worry of unsocial behavior.

With regard to Benny's concern over your attentions to other dogs, this may need addressing. You can acclimate him to accepting your attention to other dogs by associating it with pleasurable responses from you. No treats in the dog park for safety reasons, but offer praise and affection when he allows you to interact with other dogs. Start with brief interactions and work up.

If you feel you need more of this than he is comfortable with, make a date with yourself to visit the park without Benny and get your fill. Don't worry; he'll know where you've been when you arrive home, and will likely give you a good sniff up and down to learn all about the new dogs you met. Then you can bring him along and focus on him next time. You'll always want Benny to know you are his biggest fan and that you've got his back. I borrowed this statement from our Ask the Trainer columnist, Michael Baugh. It's perfect for this situation :)

Happy tails,

4 comments: said...

Lovely dog, Your Benny already has a fan here :)Hope you can get him to socialize

Dawn said...

Benny is adorable! His issue is interesting. I, too, wouldn't worry about him not interacting with other dogs. My dog Sephi was aloof at the dog park as well. But once in a while she would chase other dogs and come across as being aggressive so sometimes had to be leashed. Pierson doesn't like other dogs at all so he doesn't get to go. Even my lovable Labrador Maya has issues. Hers is the opposite, though. She tries to be too overly friendly with strange dogs which sometimes earns her a growl or a snap.

Kolchak Puggle said...

What a cutie pup. I find Kol is a somewhat tentative park-goer, as well. He's definitely interested in the smalls and checking it out - as long as I am not far behind. We usually let him have that time to walk off leash, take in the smells and I casually walk around the path etc. giving him a chance to roam and remain close.

Jt Clough | Maui Dog Remedies said...

Another helpful hint in the area of dealing with your attention to other dogs.... get someone or even a couple of people & their dogs to go on a fast paced walk with you and Benny. Dogs in motion, especially a breed like Benny will deal with things better as movement in the midst of it occurs. Then mix it up with the dog park! :)

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