5 Ways to Screw up your Dog
1. Forcing the dog into stressful or scary situations
Socialisation should be about introducing the dog to something new in a positive way.
We hear about the importance of bringing our dogs to new areas, so we think of the “big picture” events when really we should be focusing on less-exciting examples.
New dog owners are told to socialise their dogs around other dogs, so they might think it’s a good idea to visit the local park, playing field or freedom field, for example.
Obviously you wouldn’t want to take a dog with no dog-park experience and throw him into a fenced area with 25 other dogs on a lively Saturday afternoon. This would set most dogs up for failure.
But, a walk with one other dog followed by a little off-leash play? This is a perfect way for many dogs to socialise until they get more comfortable.
Another example: Bringing a puppy to a busy, noisy event like watching a football match with enthusiastic family members screaming on the touchline could be too scary. But a walk where you know your dog will be exposed to a small crowd – like walking by a local kid’s cricket game – might be perfect. It’s less chaotic, and you can always move away calmly.
2. Not investing in training
In my twenty five years of dog related work I have discovered that people will often spend hundreds if not thousands of pounds buying an exotic purebred, designer or working line imported dog, but then they won’t spend a penny on training that dog.
People will also pay £400 to adopt a “rescue dog,” but are most of them willing to spend money on training? My experience is they don’t.
I’m not saying you have to invest a bucket loads of money into dog training, but you do need to invest your time. Most people choose to train their dog themselves with walks around the neighbourhood.
I do find group obedience classes valuable, even to those who “know everything” about training a dog. Classes are an easy way to work with your dog around other dogs. The main problem is the training scenarios are not matched with the “real world” and failure frequently occurs. You’ll be amazed how many dog owners subscribe to 8-10 classes then ask fo help on loose leash walking and recall? Classes are not for all dogs, of course. Hiring a private trainer for one-on-one instruction can be extremely beneficial and helpful to all.
3. Not having an exit plan
Some situations are just too stressful for certain dogs, and it’s up to the owner to always have a plan for what to do if it’s not going well. This is true no matter how well socialised the dog is.
Sometimes we humans set these unrealistic goals and expectations for our dogs. Maybe someone decides to take his dog to a street market, for example, because he’s seen other people walking their calm, easygoing dogs through the fair in the past.
This is fine, but if it’s not going well and the dog is lunging and barking at people or so scared that his tail is tucked between his legs, you need to be ready to walk away or get in the car and go home.
As a less extreme example, I always have the goal of taking Henry my rescued young Lab to coffee shops on a regular he’ll wear his flat collar. Generally this goes OK, but sometimes it’s an unrealistic expectation and he pulls too much. As a backup, I always take a Gentle Leader along in my pocket so I have it just in case.
4. ‘Correcting’ a fearful dog
It’s only natural for dog owners to want to tell a dog “no” or to jerk harshly on the leash when the dog is barking or growling out of fear. I’ve made this mistake many years ago. It’s almost like it’s a way to acknowledge to another other perso/passer by. Like, a way to signal, “I’m sorry about my dog. I need to demonstrate that i’m trying to do something about it. See? I’m telling him no.” I’m hoping you get what I mean?
Some will warn that correcting a fearful dog will make the dog more fearful because he will associate the “pain” with the other dog, that maybe the case if you go crazy on the lead in utter frustration. What I find is that it simply adds unnecessary tension/reflex, which might add more fuel to your dog’s “outbursts.” Either way, correcting him is unlikely to help him get over his fears.
The Dog Man will be able to help you go over a specific training plan for your dog if you need it.
5. Forgetting the little things, like walking in new areas
One of the easiest ways to socialise a dog is to simply take him for a walk every day. I know we come up with all sorts of excuses not to walk our dogs, but it really is such a simple and valuable way to provide daily socialisation.
Dogs are exposed to so many new people, dogs, sights, sounds and smells on a walk. So if you want to expose your dog to something new, simply walk him down a different street than he’s used to or even walk him at a different time of day.