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I love dog-friendly Austin, and I'm a big supporter of proper training and socialization.  Given that training methods and beliefs vary wildly, I'm pretty passive when other people are out and about with their dogs unless there is a safety issue.  That means if I see your dog off-leash close to vehicles, I'll say something to you.

If you were a parent of a human toddler, would you take your child to a group of older kids that beat him or her up while you stood idly by?  After expressing fear, would you let the older kids beat your child up again? Would you then reward your child for showing fear?  That's essentially what I saw this past weekend.

An off-leash boxer was romping around the area at a dog-friendly event.  A young woman had a pyrenees mix puppy on a leash that looked to be about four to six months old.   The off-leash boxer attacked the puppy on three separate occasions, leaving the puppy yelping and screaming for 30 seconds.  The owner never protected the puppy from the boxer nor did the owner walk the puppy away from the boxer.  On two occasions, she walked the puppy up to the offending boxer.  At the end of the event, the puppy refused to follow the owner and cowered everywhere it went.  She stopped, petted the dog, and coddled it when showed fear.  This is a dog that is going to develop severe behavioral issues in the future.  The other owner praised his boxer as well.

The owner essentially put the puppy in a situation where it would be attacked, and then instead of teaching it to be confident through leadership, she coddled it.  I politely warned the woman that she was teaching her dog to be fearful, but she wouldn't have any of it.  She insisted that her cowering puppy was outgoing.  Unfortunately, it is difficult for many people to view their beloved pet(s)' behavior in an objective manner, and it was very obvious that the puppy no longer trusted her judgment. In my opinion, the owners of both dogs handled the situation improperly.  Both dogs were praised for undesirable behaviors. 

I have articles on how to socialize, but this one is how to NOT socialize.  Socializing isn't just spending time in the presence of others, socializing means having positive social interactions and learning how to interact.  Here's some basics on socializing your dog. 

  • DON'T just let your dog play freely with other dogs.  Dogs are dogs.  They will fight on occasion.  They will pick up bad behaviors.  DON'T think that your dog won't come home with only germs from the dog park. They'll probably also bring home some unwanted behaviors due to social learning.  DO supervise your dog during play.

  • DON'T assume that other dogs are friendly.  Like people, some dogs are just big mean jerks that want to pick fights.  DO know the other dogs before you let yours play or get beat up.

  • DON'T think that all dogs have to get along.   DON'T walk your dog up to an aggressive dog.   If another dog is being a big meanie, just walk your dog away.  DO avoid fights.

  • DON'T coddle your dog. Coddling your dog (babying/praising/petting when your dog exhibits fear or anxiety) only encourages those behaviors.  DO ignore fear and anxiety, and DO reward confident and active behavior.

  • DON'T assume that other dog owners are watching their dogs.  Other owners probably aren't watching their own dogs.  Most of the time, they are socializing amongst themselves.  DO watch your dog and other dogs