Socialising on walks
I’ve talked about socialising on a few occasions, but today I am focusing on walking with friends, by meeting up and going on a walk together. I am fortunate to have plenty of ‘dog friends’ these days and I enjoy nothing better than to meet up for a walk and a catch up. This is a different thing from meeting people on a walk and stopping for a chat, or even walking along with someone you see on a walk.
Allowing your dog to meet and spend time around other dogs is such a great thing to do. So many people struggle with socialising their dogs, which stops them from being able to let their dogs off lead and run around.
What difference does it make to your dog?
Well believe it or not, dogs do have friends, just like us. If they see another dog regularly, they can get to know them and build up their confidence in running and playing together. Sometimes it takes a while for dogs to get to know each other, but most dogs like to see the same dogs and have the chance to walk along together.
When I meet up with friends, I find that if we just set off together, the dogs will set off with us. If we have to start on lead, that’s fine, they can walk slightly apart, but moving forward. Then you let them off and away they go!
The main benefits
Dogs on a pack walk will usually be more active, running around more and following each other about. They should also be more engaged, sniffing what the other dogs sniff and of course toileting, or marking where the other dogs have been!
I think it is really important to share your experiences of your dog with like-minded people. The main benefit of going to training classes, in my view, is not just for socialisation for your dog, but for the socialisation for you! In a class situation, it can be tricky to let the dogs socialise properly, as you have a job to do. Walking provides a much better situation for everyone to get along.
There are a few possible problems with socialising on a walk. First of all, the dogs need to meet and get along. As I’ve said, it’s better to just get walking. Standing chatting is when problems are more likely to occur. Move forward and the dogs will get on with it. You might find they don’t seem to interact that much – it’s fine. They are sharing the experience and if you walk together fairly often, they will definitely enjoy being together.
Other problems can occur if one gets a scent and takes the others off with it. You may well find that recall is harder when other dogs are around. The trick with this is to coordinate your efforts. When one of you calls your dog, get the others to also call their dogs. Then it all becomes interesting and exciting for the dogs! If they really aren’t listening, you will all have to try the ‘running away’ tactic.
You will definitely need more treats than usual! Or tastier ones, at least. But don’t be too demanding of your dog? Manage your expectations; they are having fun and don’t need you hassling them all the time! I do recommend calling them in for a treat and a fuss, with if possible a quick second or two on lead and then praise and off they go again.
When you have several young unneutered dogs of the same age and sex, don’t be surprised if they have a bit of a scrap at some point? Usually, they will sort themselves out really quickly, but you may have to intervene. Ideally, they should be the same size, so there won’t be any damage. Just be aware of the dynamic and be ready to interfere if necessary. A loud shout should be enough to break things up.
Oh and keep counting. How many dogs do we have?
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.