It’s 2024.. Dog parks are OUT and proper socialization is in!

ABQ itself has over 2 dozen parks specifically designated to allowing your furry friends to romp and roam off leash with other furry friends. And when jogging by, one might see dogs playing and seemingly enjoying themselves while their owners mingle with one another discussing how they dogs could be any cuter. But if you look closely, you’ll see that dog parks are a breeding ground for bad manners and unruly tussles that could leave your dog fearful and reactive for life. It sounds dramatic, I know. But it’s true.

Most of the time owners are taking their dogs to the park so their dog can get their energy out with minimal effort possible. You know the type, dad sitting on the corner bench while his golden doodle is stomping around picking fights with any dog who looks his way. And to the untrained eye, this looks like a dog who’s “trying to play”. But really, the golden doodle is a bully. Sniffing and barking until another dog gives in and gives him a reason. Sometimes all it takes is one fight to transform your pups entire perspective on socialization.

It happens all too often. An innocent, once confident and friendly pup now becomes “aggressive” on walks towards other dogs and leaves the owners wondering “what happened”? Even more so, a dog fight doesn’t even have to ensue for a dog to become cold towards other dogs. Dogs of all ages are allowed in dog parks and sometimes that includes the little puppy who hasn’t learned boundaries yet. And since dogs have personalities of their own, not every dog is equipped to handled and communicate with the puppy that just won’t take “stop biting my tail” for “stop biting my tail”. In result, you see a dog that learns his ques aren’t enough, so his communication needs to be stronger and louder. You see a dog that begins to not want anything to do with any dog because they might not understand him either. The frustration and fear will present itself as reactivity or aggression. And owners will still be left wondering… “what.. happened”?

I guess now you’re wondering what DO you do to socialize your dog then? The answer is probably simpler than you think because the reality is that your dog doesn’t have to interact with another dog for it to be “socialized”. By definition socialization means to make someone behave in a way that is acceptable to their society. This means getting your dog to a point where they can go into a store, dog friendly restaurant, or walk the trails without being a menace because they expect to greet every single living thing that walks past them.

So, what does this kind of training look like?  

  • Building engagement with your dog so that when stimulus’s present themselves your dog is conditioned to turn their attention to you.
  • Going to a park or busy market and just.. sitting. Allow you dog to take in their surroundings and learn how to react neutrally.
  • Finding a buddy. Dogs are still social creatures and desire to build relationships. If you can, find one or two dogs that yours really gets along with and set up play dates.
  • Find a local dog trainer who offers group classes. This is a great way to expose your dog to other dogs while also working on obedience.

To summarize, your dogs ability to be neutral in specific environments is considered “socialized”. Work on building a neutral and calm dog and watch how much it alleviates other training stressors.

Remember, anything is paw-sible.