Should My Dog Socialize With Other Dogs?

Dogs are pack animals by nature, but that doesn’t mean they are born with the social skills necessary to get along with other animals. Just like people, dogs must be properly socialized early in life to help them become well adjusted and well behaved. Starting from as young as six to eight weeks of age, when she is most open to new influences, give your dog the opportunity to interact with other dogs in the park, in obedience school or in the kennel.

Before you expose a young puppy to other dogs, check with your vet to make sure she has completed the necessary immunizations. You can institute your own socialization program, or you can take her to a puppy “kindergarten” or other socialization classes offered by trainers, breeders and sometimes the ASPCA or Humane Society. If you socialize your dog early, she’ll know how to behave when she’s around other dogs — both friends and strangers — in the future.

If you don’t socialize your pup from the beginning, she may get into all sorts of trouble simply because she doesn’t know any better. You’ll likely find her starting fights with others, pulling on her leash, barking and growling at other animals or people or leaving the yard to chase another dog. Dogs that act this way are not malicious by nature, they are just reacting defensively or aggressively to situations where they are frightened or over stimulated. Getting your dog used to being around other dogs when she’s young will keep these kinds of incidents from occurring.

Here are some tips on how to introduce your family dog to another dog:

  • Choose a neutral location. Take the dogs to a park that neither is familiar with — this will prevent them both from feeling the need to protect what they consider their territory. Don’t try to handle both dogs yourself; have another friend or family member come along.
  • Use positive reinforcement. When the dogs are sniffing each other and getting acquainted, talk to them in a happy, friendly tone. This conditions them to expect a good time when they are in each other’s company. Never use a threatening voice.
  • Keep it short. Take the dogs for a walk, letting them come together briefly once in a while. Don’t let the dogs investigate each other for too long, or it could escalate into aggression.

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