How to socialize your dog with other dogs using Victoria Stilwell approach?

Enjoying some company :)

Enjoying some company at Rajasaaren koirapuisto 🙂

A dog will have more confidence in himself if he has learned how to socialize with other dogs. Helping your dog to socialize with other dogs is very important. This socialization will minimize fears your dog might have towards other dogs and help him to enjoy other dogs company in a playful way. It will minimize barking each time your dog sees another dog – though there are exceptions when your dog is guarding a territory. It will also enable your dog to cope with big, very dominant and bully dogs through avoidance or “backing off” body language signals, without going into a biting scene.

Lukas showing signs of fear and backing off to the other big dog

Lukas showing signs of fear and backing off to the other big dog when first met

Our rescued dog Lukas, now with one year old, has been exposed gradually to other dogs. The results have been amazing since he now manages to be even close to other big dogs. You can see this evolution from my two previous posts – How to introduce your rescued dog to a dog park and Why is your dog afraid of other dogs? I now continue to share this evolution with you with this new post on “How to socialize your dog with other dogs?”

Lukas now coping with the big friendly dog after 45 minutes on the dog park!

Lukas now coping with the big friendly dog after 45 minutes on the dog park!

There isn’t a big secret into how to socialize your dog with other dogs. A gradual exposure to other dogs and getting to know your dog’s body language and fears are the steps to enable your dog to learn. It is important to take a step by step approach with your dog when meeting up with other dogs.

First sniff to know eacthother and to find out if they will be "friends"

First introduction – Lukas sniffing another small dog at Rajasaaren Koirapuisto

I have been using Victoria Stilwell approach which involves three stages. You can see these stages in the following video from eHowPets.

Stage 1

  1. Both dogs should be on a neutral area, like a dog park
  2. Start with small and same size dog
  3. Bring your dog on leash and walk slowly, relaxed and with no tension on the leash towards the other dog
  4. The other dog should be on leash and on the same spot waiting for your dog
  5. Your dog should walk towards the other dog on his own pace
  6. If your dog is afraid, give a few steps backwards and then return again towards the other dog. Do this several times as needed and try to reduce the distance. Reward with treats or verbal praise the decrease of distance
  7. Once the dogs are close, let them sniff each other and let them play if they want to – starting to go into circles with small runs towards each other
  8. If they do not want to play – they move separate ways or start showing aggressive or fear signs –  you will need to repeat step one several times until moving towards stage 2
Exposure to more small dogs in the dog park

First introductions to more small dogs in the dog park

Stage 2 

  1. If both dogs enjoyed playing with each other on leash during stage 1
  2. Now try to walk side by side with the other dog
  3. First at a bigger distance and gradually decrease
  4. If the dogs cannot yet walk side by side, you will need to give more time for them to play on leash until they settle by themselves, before starting stage 2.

First introductions - Lukas letting the other dog sniff more sensitive areas as a sign of peace

First introductions – Lukas letting the other dog sniff more sensitive areas as a sign of peace at Rajasaaren koirapuisto

Second stage - walking side by side with other dogs

Second stage – walking side by side with other dogs

Stage 3

  1. If the dogs are able to walk side by side for 1 km or several meters without issues, you can now try to remove the leash and hope the dogs enjoy themselves while playing
  2. Watch for signs of tension and fear on your dog – showing teeth, tale tucked in and complete retreat to some corner
  3. Watch as well if your dog is a type bully and dominant dog – your dog tries to force the other dog to the ground with his body and paws and tries to put his mount on the other dog´s neck – try to avoid your dog bullying the other dog by removing him from the scene without tension and bringing him back again after a few seconds of removal.
Lukas playing running and chase with other dogs off leash

Lukas playing running and chase with other dogs off leash at Rajasaaren koirapuisto

However, if you do not have the possibility to socialize your dog with another friendly dog, you can try to socialize your dog gradually with other dogs each time you meet a dog on leash while walking your dog. While walking towards other passing by dogs, use lots of treats as rewards for good association and have your leash loose and not tense, so you do not pass on the tension to your dog. Give time for your dog to feel comfortable with the other dog and watch for signs of fear and aggressiveness from the other dog as well. Only after several meets during walks on leash and according to your dog’s development, you can then think of trying to have him off leash on the dog park with other dogs. Do not force your dog if he does not want to meet other dogs.  

First introduction with a big Sheppard dog

First introduction with a big Sheppard dog at Rajasaaren koirapuisto

Whenever you meet up other dogs while walking your dog or at a dog park, the ideal is that your dog does not experience fear by becoming aggressive or by isolating himself. However, there will always be different types of dog’s behaviours near your dog. Examples are dogs that are more aggressive and try to bully your dog through dominance. Some typical behaviours are: a dog that chases yours and tries to step; a dog that mouths your dog’s neck or pushes him to the ground. Your dog might not cope well with these types of behaviours. Actually, whenever I encounter dogs with these types of behaviours, I rather retrieve my dog from the scene. My impression is that these dogs need to learn dog socialization as well, towards easy going and peaceful playfulness. They might compromise safety and actually start a dog fight. It is very important, helpful and interesting to learn dog body language.

Stage 3 - playing off leash

Stage 3 – playing off leash

Stage 3 - now with more dogs and more tension but still coping

Stage 3 – now with more dogs and more tension but still coping

I hope many dog owners have the opportunity to understand their dog’s needs toward socialization with other dogs. This understanding is the first step towards a more confident and peaceful dog while meeting other dogs. Also, you as a dog owner, will have the opportunity to get to know better your dog, learn a great deal of dog body language and how to calm your dog. Your relationship with your dog will developed towards a bigger bound between the two of you. It is very rewarding!!

We are very very happy with our results on “How to socialize your dog with other dogs?” Again we are very thankful to Victoria Stilwell positively approach. Continuous work is needed to help your dog to socialize with other dogs. It is a ongoing training, always. 

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