Tips for positive socialization while on walks

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BucklesFamily
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Joined: Mon May 14, 2018 8:39 pm
Location: USA

Tips for positive socialization while on walks

Post by BucklesFamily » Sat Jul 28, 2018 12:04 pm

Just as the subject line says, I am wondering if you all would have tips for positive socialization while taking my 6-month-old lab/hound puppy on walks. My family is very laid back, not to mention we live in a rural area, so taking Melian on an official WALK at a park is kind of a big event that involves everyone jumping in the car and driving a minimum of 15 minutes to half an hour to get somewhere. At this point, with Melian's level of training and our schedules, the best we've been able to do is take her for an official at-the-park walk once a week and obviously we want these walks to be as positive an experience as possible.

I've actually gotten used to avoiding both people and certain dogs when we walk our beagle, Eli because he doesn't enjoy or want interaction with strange humans and, while he gets excited to see other dogs and likes calm, friendly ones, we avoid bigger or more hyper dogs with him because he gets defensive if a dog gets all over him or is agressive. Seeing how Melian the puppy needs socialization, though, this avoidance habit of mine is something I need to break. :p

I guess my question is, what is the best way to handle allowing Melian to interact with both people and other dogs, and have we been handling the interactions she's had so far okay? She seems to have different reactions to different people at this point. She dislikes anyone who smells like cigarette smoke, which I believe is because we've had to have several workmen in our house over the past few months since we got her and she barked (from her crate) at those who smelled like smoke and didn't bark at those who didn't. Now she's getting so she barks at any strangers on our property, which we're honestly okay with for security reasons: we're a very private family and don't have guests come over, so no concerns about her barking at guest, and if someone trespasses on our property without permission we definitely want them to know there's a dog in the house, so we don't correct her for it. (Just to make note, we don't praise her for it, either, and when workmen are here she's in her crate the whole time, which she has indicated is a place she feels secure.)

We don't want her barking at or being afraid of people on walks, though. Like I said, she reacts to different people differently, and I have no idea what the difference is most of the time. Examples: she acted afraid of and barked at a random teenage boy sitting on a brick wall during one walk. He didn't even look at her, she just decided she didn't like him and got antsy when she saw him walking towards us later during the same walk. (We responded to this by walking the other way and making sure she didn't see him again.) On the same walk, though, we walked past an adult man and his pregnant wife who did look at her, and Melian payed attention to them, but did not react negatively. After that walk, we took her to Petsmart to get her claws trimmed. There were plenty of people there whom she seemed casually interested in, but did not react negatively to anyone except for not wanting to go back with the two female groomers. (They said she did better than they thought with the claw trimming, though so... *shrug*) She then had no problem with the male employee at the check-out and even stopped and sniffed the hand of a nice woman in line behind us. (I praised her for this.)

On our most recent walk, we took her to the most busy park she's been to yet and she didn't bark at any humans male or female, or dogs, just acted very interested (ears and tail up) but definitely not afraid. One woman did stop to interact with her, though, (looked her in the eye and bent forward, speaking to her) and she acted scared of the woman and growled. (We just said, "Aww, it's okay" and walked on.) There were also lots of dogs. My mom thought it would be best to simply have Melian sit on the side of the path and let the other dogs pass, so she did not get to interact with any of them. I thought Melian acted a little frustrated at this (she pulled towards the dogs and then jumped on me when she couldn't get to them), and I wonder if it would have been better to ask the owners if their dogs were friendly and allow Melian to interact instead of holding her back.

So, have we been handling her human interactions okay, or could we improve, and would it be better to let her interact with the dogs who pass us by rather than hold her back?

Sorry for the super long post!
-Elizabeth

Shalista
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Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2015 10:04 pm

Re: Tips for positive socialization while on walks

Post by Shalista » Sat Jul 28, 2018 5:07 pm

Not sure what your end goal is as far as people socialization. it sounds like your mostly okay with her saying what she wants and does not want? which is great!

if you ARE interested in getting her more lovy with PEOPLE i can offer some pointers.

I have a dog that WAS extremely fearful of ALL people (including me). the way we beat it was by letting him choose.

if he disliked someone (he had bad body language or barked or pulled away or just didnt seem interested) we walked on.

IF however he showed ANY interest in a positive way and the person did to we'd walk up and say hi, strike up a conversation. sometimes we'd just stand and chit chat. if they seem receptive offer them the treat bag. make it raaaaiinnn treats. strangers are now the font of all treats. allow pets only if pooch seems comfortable. keep walking. keep it short and sweet and back out fast if she seems uncomfortable or bored.

gradually the number of people he disliked diminished and the amount of affection he wanted from strangers increased. i cant remember the last time was that he didn't mug a stranger for affection. (hes now a therapy dog at our nursing home)

but the keys are awareness (how MUCH does she like or dislike this person) and choice (SHE gets to choose whether to say hi or not)

what we ARE still working on is being polite about not pulling to greet people now (because people = treats/snuggles) and being polite once we get there (he likes to put his paws up for extra strength neck scratchies) but one thing at time :D

as far as dog stuff, i cant help you. Bax loses his marbles when he sees another dog and he's strictly on no contact now though he can be friendly with some. its just not worth the stress to everyone concerned for us to say hi and it turns out he doesn't like them. hes never off lead so avoidence is usually pretty easy.

EDIT: final point. NEVER force her to say hi to someone she doesn't want to. if she's not interested? no matter how interested the person is? keep walking anyway. there IS some lee way with this where ive managed to get Bax to eat treats from someone he's otherwise not interested in? but usually not worth it and def no pets without pooches consent. (Ie no holding her still so someone else can pet)
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

BucklesFamily
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon May 14, 2018 8:39 pm
Location: USA

Re: Tips for positive socialization while on walks

Post by BucklesFamily » Sun Jul 29, 2018 3:31 pm

Thank you for the response, Shalista. :) The end goal I have in mind is simply to try to socialize Melian in a way that she'll grow up to be a confident, happy dog that hopefully will at least be comfortable around other people and dogs. Whether she wants to approach them or not is up to her, I just want her comfortable enough being around them that she won't get overstimulated/overwhelmed and freak out if there are too many around (which has happened a couple of times, once at a college campus and once in a Petsmart, neither of which we realized would be so busy at the times we went there, and it was very stressful to deal with her freak-out given her larger size and her circling around my and my mom's legs until we both almost fell down.) We also certainly don't want her to ever become aggressive because she is afraid. Being a lab, she seems to be a magnet for little, unsupervised, children to run up and think they can pet her without permission. My mom had to physically restrain some 4 year olds in Petsmart just this past week because they ran straight at Melian, screaming, "WE WANNA PET THE DOGGY!" and scared Melian into cowering. So that's another motivation factor behind wanting her comfortable and confident around people.

In posting here, I mainly just wanted to be sure that the things we've done so far are helping rather than harming her in the confidence department.
Since you said letting her choose is great, I guess that means we're doing something right. :)

Thank you for those tips! We have been bringing treats with us on walks with her, just in case, so we can definitely implement your suggestions if needed.

Shalista
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Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2015 10:04 pm

Re: Tips for positive socialization while on walks

Post by Shalista » Sun Jul 29, 2018 5:35 pm

I'll be honest, given Bax's early years i have the body-block-and-say- "He's a little shy" down PAT. its funny because he then proceeds to mug them for snuggles but at least it slowed them down. I have honestly found people to be very receptive of just flat telling them your dog is scared/anxious/shy and then you can be pleasantly proven wrong in a minute once they slow down.

it may be a lil dif cause yours is a bigger dog and its hard for people to picture big dogs as being shy (bax is 12 pounds). but def be an advocate for your dog. even if it seems like she does want to say hi tell them she's shy anyway. that way they might give her some more space and not swamp her.

like i said, 4 years on and "sure you can pet him but hes a little shy....." is on the tip of my tongue with every person i meet. even in his more outgoing and friendly state now Bax still sometimes needs that moment of hesitation on their part where they just dont go in for full snuggles.

i have a neighbor who has a corgi and she says people pick up her dog without any warning. i cant imagine Bax's terror if someone did that.

Again, prolly not something you have to worry about with a lab :wink: but telling people to WAIT before they touch your dog will do wonders for every encounter you have.

EDIT: this is doubly true to if you want to work on things like a "sit" or "four paws on the ground" before anyone touches her which is good manners for any big dog to learn but might be a much for her in her current fearful/anxious state.
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

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Nettle
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Re: Tips for positive socialization while on walks

Post by Nettle » Mon Jul 30, 2018 3:46 am

Great work you are doing together, great advice from Shalista.

just to add - I have a very shy dog and I do not let people pet her. She is not a toy for them to get pleasure from. She is a PERSON and she does not like to be touched by strangers. So never be afraid to protect your dog. The would-be petters would not like it if you wiped your hands all over them. On from that is - I recommend you do not give your dog a command eg 'sit' when she has told you she doesn't want this person to touch her, because that piles on the pressure. Great to give that command when your dog wants to greet, but not so good to make her obey you and the result is something she is trying to avoid.


I am SO SHOCKED that people try and pick up someone else's dog!
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

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