Balancing socialization with socially appropriate behavior.
Updated: Apr 25, 2020
It can’t be stated enough how important the critical socialization period is. That little window of time between 8 and 12 weeks where a little puppy forms all of their assumptions about the world. Of course, there is more that determines a dog's behavior than what happens during this window. However, proper socialization will be your best chance at starting your pup off on the right paw! Here is the thing though, over socializing a dog can come back to bite you, jump on you, tear your clothes, and knock you over.
It is wonderful and amazing when a dog loves people. Trust me! There are plenty of dogs who are fearful of people and it’s challenging to help them overcome that fear and stay safe. However, when a dog loves people so very much, to the point where they cannot contain their excitement and become so gregarious that they simply must say hello to every person and every dog, we now have a problem. That sweet little dog who began by greeting everyone, has now learned that this is what normally happens and absolutely loves it. Why not! It makes them super happy, and it feels great to party.
Here’s the thing though. It’s not always okay for your dog to greet every person and every dog they come across.
Some people are afraid of dogs, some dogs are afraid of dogs, or some dogs are sick and potentially contagious, etc. What we’re saying is that there’s a fine line between socializing a dog to become socially appropriate, and over socializing to the point where a friendly dog can actually become rude. During that critical socialization period you absolutely need to introduce your dog to all kinds of things, people, places, surfaces etc. However, balance that with training. Balance that social behavior with the lesson of, “Not everyone is here to say hello to you.”
Here are a few tips to improve your dogs greeting habits.
Don’t allow your dog to greet every dog or every human you come across. This means, your dog should have an alternative reward instead of saying hello, available to them. It could be as simple as luring them past the person at first before giving them the treat. Or, teaching them a sit stay and asking for it when a person walks by. This also means advocating for your dog and your rules. You get to decide who your dog greets. Say that out loud with me, “I get to decide who my dog greets!” Often time the unknowing public wants to say hello to your dog and it can take some clear body language (back turned) or firm language, “No, you may not pet my dog,” to get your message across. Both you and your dog will improve with practice.
When you allow your dog to greet, get a good behavior first. This could be as simple as a sit, or standing quietly before telling them its okay to say hello. When allowing your dog to greet another dog, always have permission from the other owner prior to your dog approaching, always, always, always!
Practice makes perfect. Go out in the world and train your dog. There are so many dog friendly locations where you can go and train your dog. You could even enroll in a group class just to practice. Manners classes are a great place to practice polite greetings. Try this with your dog. If you have questions or need some guidance feel free to reach out with questions, or, join our facebook group and take part in our training community.