Our rescued adopted dog Lukas, currently with 9 months, lived previously in a kennel, so we assumed he was used to socialize with other dogs. However, when we started walking Lukas on the streets and meeting with other dogs, we realized how afraid he was. In the first tries outside, Lukas would stand still and not move when a dog would approach, small or big. With big dogs he would almost start running in the opposite direction or hide somewhere. With some patience, observation and specially learning how to read Lukas body language and the other dogs, little by little Lukas started to socialize more on the streets. Lots of praise and treats. Small dogs seem to be less fearful unless they start barking from the beginning. Actually, most of the small dogs we have encountered tend to bark. I am not sure if this is a sign of fear or territory. An interesting observation is that the big dogs we have encountered seem to be more relax and less defensive, unless they are guard dogs with very territorial instincts. Canine “language” is definitely something we still have a lot to learn 🙂
Since we are still in the process of getting to know Lukas, before we brought him to the dog park, we wanted to see how he would socialize in the streets. After observing few Lukas’s attempts to dominate some very small dogs and his fear of big dogs, we decided to take a step by step on introducing Lukas to the dog park. First we started to bring Lukas to the dog park without any dogs inside. We wanted him to get familiarized with the place with one of his favourite outdoor toys. Below you can see videos of the first, second and fourth time Lukas went to a dog park.
There are advantages having your dog alone in the dog park, because you can then play with toys. Whereas, when other dogs are in the dog park, it is not allowed due to possible conflict between dogs for the toy.
In some of the occasions when we came to the park, we were lucky to have big dogs on the big dog side of the dog park. This enabled Lukas to try to come close to the fence and smell the other big dogs.
However, if a big dog would bark a lot, Lukas would not come to the fence at all. So we tried to go next to the fence and stay there. We would then call Lukas, offering a treat to see if he would associate the situation with something positive gradually. It worked and he came. However, if the the dog on the other side of the fence is very “agressive”, Lukas would not come in the end.
Lukas managed as well to interact with other dog owners.
We hope with time to have Lukas loose with other small dogs on the dog park. We will have to pay attention if he tries to dominate or bully other dogs and vice-versa. It is very important to socialize your dog, otherwise he loses his self-confidence and gains fears from other dogs, becoming uncompensated.