How to socialize your dog in public
My Dutch Shepherd, Scout and I made a quick run to Home Depot this afternoon to grab some more paint for another one of those projects where you think you have enough supplies but then it turns out you don’t. I love taking Scout with me because every time is a new challenge, not only something she has to work on but I do as well. Today it was socializing.
It is always great to get your dog around new people. Socializing your dog is a must and sometimes instead of just training your dog to get used to people, you end up training the people who want to interact with your dog on how to do it. Today was a perfect example of that.
Invariably, when people see a dog out in public they want to pet it. Of course, its always easier to say no than to take the time to answer their questions and keep your dog in obedience while they get their personal space invaded by a complete stranger.
My standard operating procedures or SOPs
Step 1. “May I pet your dog?” “Yes but stop if she stands up. She is in training and we don’t want to reward bad behavior.” Normally at this point people look at you as if you have two heads because of course its ok to have a misbehaving dog (sarcasm)
Step 2. Correct if they step out of obedience. Now its not always easy to correct your dog in front of complete strangers but just remember you are the owner and you are the one that has to take the misbehaving dog home with you. They don’t have to deal with it after this interaction. Place the dog back into obedience and try attempt two. It seems like a lot of people hesitate and keep their hand just out of reach. The hesitation on their part builds suspicion in your dog and normally pulls them out of obedience unless you train them.
Step 3. If the person does hesitate, tell them to go ahead and get in there and normally I reach down and pet Scout to show them its ok. It comes down to confidence. A dog is gifted at reading humans and can sense the hesitation and lack of confidence. It doesn’t know why you are acting hesitant so then they start to wonder if they should be hesitating too.
Step 4. Once they get their pets in, thank them for the training opportunity. Lol they normally look at you funny again when you explain everyday is training.
I didn’t realize it during the moment but reflecting back on the training we did at Baden K9 up in Canada, thats exactly what Mike was instilling in us. Confidence as handlers. Silly me, I thought we were training the dogs but it turns out Mike was training us to be confident with and around unfamiliar dogs and handlers to accomplish the task at hand. Once you take the hesitation out, great things happen and you are able to do wondrous things with your dog. Stuff you don’t see every day.