Do you want to socialize your canine then just check out this dog socialization guide to avoid behavioral problems.
When dogs are first meeting, you should not use a retractable leash. Retractable leashes can cause a lot of damage to dogs and humans, so much that one of the warnings on the label of retractable leashes is “may cause death.” If you Google “retractable leash injuries” you will see numerous lacerations to people’s hands, fingers and calves. Dogs meeting one another can also be injured by a retractable leash as it wraps around the leg of the other dog and when they go running, it could become injured. This is especially true with a big dog with great strength and force.
In the case of friendly dogs, another way to give them a lot of freedom while still having a backup plan for control is to leave the leash on but let go of it so they have space to run and play. The reason to leave the leash on is it is easier to grab than the collar if the need to control the dog arises. It is also not as confrontational as grabbing the collar.
Some dogs are more dominant than others and that is okay, but two highly dominate dogs are likely to go at it, especially if they are the same sex. I completely understand that many of us want our dogs to be able to play with any dog that he/she may come into contact with. In reality that is fairly unlikely. Similar to how humans have various personalities, dogs are the same. Some are happy-go-lucky while others feel like they have something to prove by acting dominate or aggressive. So, please do yourself and your canine a favor and avoid forcing socialization if you have an aggressive or dominant dog. Take note that dominance isn’t aggression. Dominance is similar to intimidation, where aggression is acting out in a harmful manner.
There are various behaviors that occur in play, some are acceptable and others are not at all. When allowing your pet to interact with others, it’s helpful to know ahead of time what you can expect to see. This allows you to be proactive and not reactive. Being proactive is one of the biggest advantages Myself Ryan Matthews uses in my celebrity dog training. It allows me to be a step ahead of the dog because their behavior is often predictable. This isn’t taught overnight, it’s done by watching thousands of dogs in countless situations and environments. It is from these years of experience, and even a few occasions of getting bit, that I am able to write about his topic, in hopes that you will learn from my observations, and especially my errors.
Since a lot of body language will be displayed while the dogs play, I feel compelled to share some introduction behavioral encounters. Sniffing is the way dogs shake hands, so expect that to be one of the first things that take place when the dogs are in sniffing range. It is acceptable for the dogs to sniff at the same time or to take turns. As awkward as it may seem, dogs need to sniff one another, as long as they are not baring any teeth or growling at a low pitch.
Play should be fun, otherwise, it just works for both of you. With that being said, running, chasing and rolling is what dogs love. Running is self-explanatory, but make sure the environment is as safe as possible. Be mindful of barbed wire if allowing the dogs to play in an open field. A lot of times, when two or more canines play, one will be the chosen one to be chased. There is nothing wrong with the chase, as long as it is mostly running. Aggressive body bumps should be closely watched and stopped if they continue. Some growling and barking may occur and will actually be a dog’s process of engaging the other dog to chase and play. Mouthing, where it looks like they are biting each other, is also to be expected and isn’t of concern as long as they are not closing their mouths, but keeping them soft. I want to see mutual participation in mouthing or I would stop it temporarily and change up the environment. Changing the environment means moving from the spot to a new area, even just twenty feet away or in another room. Often, when we change up the environment, it functions as a reset, disrupting the behavior we don’t want and allowing the new behavior to emerge.
Mounting is likely to occur, but not always. Dogs don’t discriminate and will mount male on male or female on a female; I will discuss why in the body language chapter. Common sense should prevail in regards to what is fair mounting. If one of the dogs appears to be trying to get away from it, then it should be stopped. Also, as weird as this may sound, ideally the mounting should be mutual, meaning both dogs do it. However, if one canine is far more dominant than the other, it would be uncommon for the less dominant dog to mount.
Avoid allowing female dogs in heat to play. There are some obvious reasons, such as if the male is not neutered. However, a less obvious reason is that males really show their true canine animal instinct when a female is in heat. Some males may even show signs of aggression if trying to get another male away from the female dog. To save the hassle and an overall mess, just avoid allowing female dogs to play while in heat.
For dogs that don’t yet know each other, avoid toys and food around the dogs. The reason is resource guarding. Resource guarding is when a dog is possessive of an object, often to the extreme of showing aggression. Resource guarding examples will be explained in further detail in the body language chapter. Toys can be an issue for two or more dogs that have a high prey drive. Often these type of canines likes to run and chase after things are it a ball, toy or even a small animal like a rabbit. Typically, at places such as dog parks or dog beaches, numerous people bring some sort of ball or Frisbee to throw for their pet. The issue is the dog that is most interested in the toy is usually more alpha and will go after a toy that is moving fast. Often it does not matter whether or not a specific toy is hers, they will have a desire to claim it. Not only is this not fair for the dog and owner that were originally playing fetch, but it can lead to problems.
A reality about dogs is that not all of them like to play. Sure, it’s wonderful to watch a dog run and play, however, the experience for some canines is stressful and not enjoyable at all. Pets that are forced into situations that make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe may result in behavioral issues. Negative signs of play gone wrong are when a dog’s hackles raise; the dogs greet each other head-on, stare with direct eye contact, tense body, raised tail (stiff) over the back and the lack of any negotiation signs being offered by either party. It is common practice for dog owners to take no action when action should be taken. I think it is often from a lack of knowing what to do. The answer is simple: disrupt the encounter. Recall your dog, put a large object between the canines or make a loud startling sound.