How to socialize your dog

SOCIALIZING YOUR DOG

05/02/13

We all love finding new and engaging ways to socialize with our pets. Whether it’s meeting other pet owners at the local off-leash park or organizing a backyard barbecue for neigbours, there are so many ways to involve your pup in your social life.

Amy Goldberg, a teacher from Calgary, visits her park five to six days a week, where her seven-year-old Schnauzer Max reigns as king of the dog park. It’s through this off-leash community that Amy has made a new group of friends she likes to call her “six o’clock crew.”

“The first time we went I was nervous that he wouldn’t come back,” Goldberg says. So she tried a trick she heard about at obedience school, in which she started him on a short leash and gradually lengthened the leash until she had three of them tied together. After a few more visits to the park, he was free to run and play. “Now all I have to do is call Max and he comes right back to me.”

Pet owners are learning that dog parks are a great way to socialize their pets, which is important as we continue to integrate our pets more into our lifestyles and try to give our canine companions more freedom in an increasingly bustling world.

Heather Patz, a 15-year veteran dog trainer from Port Coquitlam, thinks social interaction between dogs is very important for their stability and well-being. Patz warns, however, that this should be done slowly so it’s not damaging to a pup’s confidence. “If you’re going to a non-neutral setting like someone’s home, it’s good to meet down the street first, take the dogs for a walk and then go into the home,” says Patz. “This sets you up for success so the home-owning dog isn’t as territorial with its guest.”

Patz also suggests making everything a training opportunity. From feeding time to playtime, “make your dog work for your affection and then they’ll associate obedience with positivity,” she says.

By encouraging social interaction, we can help our pooches develop skills we never knew they had, increase their self esteem and get them some exercise as they prance around with other dogs from the neighbourhood.

Off-leash parks also provide a great opportunity for us humans to engage in conversation, make new friends and meet a broader range of new and interesting people.

Often these parks establish their own association that provides workshops, lectures and activities to promote health and well-being in our furry friends. Whether it be through group walks, training tips, games or demonstrations, even socially timid pets and owners will find new ways to express themselves and develop lifelong friendships that will extend past the park’s wire fences.