Over the years, this topic has become increasingly dear to my heart. The years of watching owners ignore signs of distress, fear and even pain during social interactions with children, adults and mostly other dogs left me wondering why many don’t notice or possibly choose to do nothing about their dog’s discomfort.
Oddly enough, I believe much of the blame lies within the canine profession. The accepted approach for socializing a puppy has long since been a sort of “let them work it out” mentality. TV shows, veterinarians and even dog trainers have told clients not to shelter or shield their dog from others. These same clients call me when their frantic animal begins defensively barking at all approaching animals.
The inherent problem with “letting them work it out” is simple. Momma wolf doesn’t let outsiders come in and bully her young. Momma wolf does’t let extra large, genetically modified, outsider wolves charge her young, knocking them to the ground. It is of little significance what intentions the strange wolf has. Even if he is “just playing”, he still would not be allowed to do that. Allowing a toy breed to interact with a large, ill mannered labrador puppy without offering your protection will teach your puppy that she has to protect herself. Thus the defensive behavior begins. You are the leader, and it is your job to be the protector.
A few ways to responsibly allow social interactions with other dogs:
-Restrain the bigger, more powerful dog or puppy, allowing the smaller one to escape when things get scary and approach when they feel comfortable.
-Squat down and allow the dog to run back to you and take cover, while keeping the aggressing dog at bay with your arms.
-But most effective, match your dog wisely. Remember, nature didn’t create miniature wolves. Small breeds are defensive for a reason; something that weighs three times your size jumping on top of you HURTS. You wouldn’t appreciate it and neither do they. Try to pick dogs similar in size and confidence level. If play looks equal (back and forth wrestling not one dog always on the bottom) things are probably ok.