Ok, they're barking at us. Now what?
November 13, 2009 1:24 PM   Subscribe

How do I best socialize my dog with other dogs while we're on our daily walks given that 90% of the dogs we encounter are fenced-in and/or tethered? When a fenced-in dog sees my dog and starts running around and barking, what does it mean and how should I respond?

So, puppy is 4-5 months old, super sweet around people, housebroken & responsive to training in general. His one problem is that he gets protective of me around other dogs -- never to the point of snapping or attacking another dog, but he does tend to emit a faint rumbling growl. There have been a few what i would call neutral or neutral-positive encounters with other dogs which I have positively reinforced.

Obviously I'd like to get him socialized so that I know he can play safely with other dogs. Everyone is begging for a doggy playdate!

We don't encounter very many dogs walking with their owners on our twice daily walks -- maybe once every other walk. Most of the dogs in my neighborhood are fenced in in small front yards either on or off of a tether. I've read that this is not good for the dogs, and so I don't know if these are the kind of well behaved dogs I should be socializing my dog with in the first place, or if I should even bother at all.

So what should I do when another dog sees my dog, runs to the edge of the fence and starts barking and jumping about? How can I tell the difference between a "good" and "bad" dog since they all seem to do the same thing? If the other dog is quiet in this situation is that a good thing or a bad thing? When should we approach and when should we just keep walking past?

Most of the time I just keep walking confidently past the barking dogs, and puppy always follows me without a problem. I'm just not sure if maybe I should be allowing him to check the other dogs out to help him get acclimated.
posted by hamsterdam to Pets & Animals (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am not your dog trainer but I don't think you're going to socialize your dog much through a fence. You would probably have better luck signing up for an obedience class, at which there would be other dogs, or arranging a supervised play date, maybe in a neutral location.

A dog park is also a good place to socialize but I think many have rules against puppies below a certain age.
posted by ghharr at 1:34 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

So this works better when your dog is food motivated.

But bring some treats. When he's normally in a growlly mode, call his name and put the treat in front of your face. The goal is to get him to focus on you instead of the other dog.

Start getting him to do this further away from the fenced in dogs and work your way closer. The goal is to be able to get him to focus on you/the food instead of the other dog and hopefully get him to a point where he can walk by the other dogs focused on you instead of the dog.

Note, socializing with fenced in dogs defending their turf isn't the way to go. Socialize him at dog parks where there's neutral territory.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:36 PM on November 13, 2009

Expanding on my note a bit, this isn't socialization that you want, more just about modifying his defensive behavior so he's a well behaved pup on walks.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:38 PM on November 13, 2009

Personally I have zero interest in having my dogs meet other dogs at fences. Instead I try to keep a weather eye ahead and when approaching a fenced dog zone I start 'working' my dog so that s/he's having to pay attention to me, the two-legged treat dispenser. We might start heeling quickly or maybe start doing some doggy pushups... Sit! Down! Sit! Down! Heel! Down! Heel! ... and so on. Especially with a pup I'm rewarding attention like crazy, so it's practically a walking buffet. I know I'm succeeding if my dog spots a fence-dog before I do and starts giving me the "fork it over" look.
posted by cairnish at 1:42 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

First of all, it is commendable that you are trying to be a responsible pet owner and making sure your puppy plays nice with others.

Dogs are tethered for multiple reasons, and I would hesistate to judge one's behavior just because a dog on one. (Now, if the dog's chain is too short to reach shelter/shade or food/water, I might begin to judge their owner's behavior.) Some dogs jump quite high, and a tether can prevent an accident.

Apart from maybe excessive barking, your dog won't learn any "bad habits" from dogs on the other side of the fence. However, you should quickly walk past any dogs displaying aggressive behaviors: Raised hackles, growling, pinned-back ears, snarling, etc. Ears are a great way to check to see how a dog is feeling, even those that aren't barking.

If you want to socialize your dog, start taking people up on those playdate requests. Start with a good example: the dogs should be well socialized first. Also, you should start slow, be aware of how your dog is feeling, and make sure you are there to step in in case something untoward happens.

Have fun!
posted by gagoumot at 1:51 PM on November 13, 2009

Seconding the suggestion of taking your dog along to a puppy obedience class. This should teach him potentially life saving commands such as "No!" or "Come here!". However an equally important benefit is that the classes normally allocate time for dogs of a similar age to play with each other and learn the skills of socialisation.
posted by rongorongo at 3:20 PM on November 13, 2009

You could sign your dog up for a group obedience class. Many large pet stores like Petsmart offer them after hours. It is a good way to expose your dog to many different dogs in a controlled environment. You will be there with other new dog owners who are interested in socializing their dogs and you can pick up useful training tips.
posted by Procloeon at 3:34 PM on November 13, 2009

Yep, I agree with all the posts so far. The dogs behind fences are useless in terms of socializing your dog, your only goal here is to get your pup past them with a minimum of response... use the techniques suggested by cairnish.

Socialization will happen when your dog is actually able to interact with other dogs, go ahead and set up the "play dates" asap, the younger your dog is the better!
posted by HuronBob at 6:00 PM on November 13, 2009

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