Mentioned in this episode
Dom’s book How to Be Your Dog’s Superhero
Dom: Hello me bonny bairns and welcome to episode, what are we on, Alex?
Alex: We are on episode 9.
Alex: I had to look at my list there.
Dom: 9 of the Superhero Dog Owners show. This is the show that helps you have more fun and less stress with your pet dog. I’m Dom Hodgson I’m your host, so welcome. I’m joined as usual by Alex the video guy.
Dom: Who’s in charge of remembering which podcast we’re up to. Good work, Alex. You did awesome today. This week we’re going to be talking about an “S” word.
Alex: What? (Bleep).
Dom: No, not that one. We’re talking about socialization. This is something that I think a lot of pet dog owners get wrong. I think it’s something that a lot of pet dog owners get hung up about and they can make a lot of mistakes thinking that they have to socialize their dogs a certain way for their dog to be friendly. We’re going to be discussing that. These are just my views, obviously. You guys know me by know. You know that I’m a very very lazy dog trainer, very lazy dog owner too. You can trust that if I’m telling you something I’m coming at it from the point of view that I want to make life as easy as possible for you because I want to make life as easy as possible for me as well. That’s what it is.
Let’s talk about social life. Before we get on to dog social life, what about our social life, Alex? What about you, what does a good night out consist of for you?
Alex: A good night out for me would probably be going to the pub or a bar with my mates, having some beers, catching up with them where we can actually talk to each other. Then maybe going into town and seeing some live music or something like that.
Dom: You would like to do that with your friends. Would you do that everyday?
Alex: Oh, God no. Definitely not. As much as I love them all, I think for me, there’s a time and place for socialization, definitely.
Dom: How have your tastes changed over the years?
Alex: I think that if I was 16 to 18 I’d be going out a lot more. These days it’s more like once a month. Most of the time I just like to chill out in my own house, have my own space.
Dom: You and your good lady, just chilling out. Awesome, yeah. I’m very similar. I used to be quite social once upon a time now I’m just a miserable old man as my wife is fond of telling me. We like just chilling out watching an HBO drama or something like that then just enjoying a nice glass of Merlot, other red wines are available. I think we get hung up on thinking that our dogs need to have this amazing social life.
Obviously, we’re all different. I have friends who still like going out and they go out regularly with their mates and they have beers and nights out and things. Like I said, I’m getting a little too old for this kind of a thing now. I much prefer a more quiet existence. You sound like you’re catching up with me even. We get really hung up on the fact that we want our dogs to have this social life. We want them to get on with other dogs and to play with other dogs. Certainly from my point of view when I had my first dog called Flo, she was just a little mongrel who died about maybe 5 years ago.
She wasn’t a very friendly dog at all. In fact, for the first 6 years she was a bitch really. She was a bitch anyways, but she was a bitch. She really did not like other dogs and she would let them know that she didn’t like them. Once she got about 6 or 7 I managed to slowly show her that she didn’t need to be afraid of other dogs. Still, she didn’t like other dogs. I think I used to get hung up on it. When I used to go to the park, and people would say, “Oh, is she not very friendly?” I would have to say, “Oh, no she isn’t.” You see other dogs playing and you want your dog to be like those dogs.
Certainly a lot of dog owners that I speak to, a lot of clients, they tell me, “My dog isn’t very social, he doesn’t like playing with other dogs.” I have to tell them the same exact thing I wish somebody had told me, which is, “That’s fine. That’s okay. Your dog doesn’t have to like every other dog. Your dog doesn’t have to like any other dog for that matter. Preferably it would be good if he wasn’t particularly aggressive towards them, but certainly, your dog doesn’t have to be playing. Your dog can play quite happily with you [inaudible 00:05:06] or a tennis ball or whatever it is that you want to play with him with. If your dog never saw another dog in his life, to me, that would be fine.” He wouldn’t have any less of a life if he didn’t have a relationship with any other dog.
Alex: That’s right. I think people think that it’s this unwritten rule that your dog has to be able to get on with other dogs and has to meet other dogs and that kind of think for whatever reason. It just doesn’t …
Dom: … I think if anything, you can actually cause a lot of problems, certainly with puppies by making them play with other dogs be the things that your puppy enjoys the most. If you expose him to that regularly then he is going to enjoy that. It’s going to be his favourite thing to do. He’s going to seek that out when you take him to the park or the beach or the woods or wherever. If he sees another dog he’s going to want to go to him and play with him. Obviously, you’re going to have less control then
Like what we said in episode 2 with the kryptonite, you want the thing that your dog enjoys to be something that you can really quite easily control. If it’s another dog, or a pheasant, or a deer, then you obviously can’t control all of those things. If they’re the things that your dog enjoys, they’re the things that he’s going to be looking for when he goes for a walk.
We’ve been talking quite a bit about puppies over the past couple weeks with Mark the vet and then we had Amy on as well. This is something I want all the puppy owners to realize out there is your puppy certainly needs to be exposed to other dogs, but he needs to be exposed to good calm dogs that he’s not going to be too interested in. He needs to be exposed to dogs in the same way that he needs to be exposed to cars, buses, lorries, bin man, women, children, fire engines, horses, sheep, fireworks.
Whatever it is that you want your dog to be okay with, then he definitely needs to meet other dogs because he’s going to meet other dogs when he’s out and about, but if you can teach your dog that you’re the most interesting thing, even when there’s another dog there, then your life’s going to be set and you’re going to have a really social dog then that you can take anywhere, on your holidays, to the park, or wherever and he’s going to be an amazing dog. He’s not going to be bothered by anything else, he’s not going to be frighted by anything else. He’s just going to want to be with you as well.
That’s what we’re talking about. That’s what I think socialization is that your dog being okay with other dogs, but not necessarily wanting to be with other dogs. It’s your dog being okay with lollipop ladies, but if every time your dog saw a lollipop lady and she gave him a bit of a stick, then he’d be looking for lollipop ladies every time you took him for a walk. He’d be pulling your arm off to get to that lollipop lady over the way. You need to make sure that you’re the thing that your dog is looking at and wants to be with.
We’ve shot some footage over the years with a little Betty schnauzer who is one of our regular dog walking clients. We made sure that we were helping Betty’s owners. We wanted her to be a nice social dog and a confident dog. We took her to lots of different places and exposed her to lots of different things. She still had exposure to dogs, she lives with another dog as well. She comes on adventures with us. All the time we’re teaching Betty that we’re the thing that she wants to be interested in that she should be looking at. Just because it makes life much easier.
I can’t stress that enough. That’s all I’m interested in. If you want your dog to be every other dog’s friend in town, then by all means, go the other way and encourage him to play. Don’t be bothered by him. Don’t call him back, that kind of thing. There are consequences to everything we do. One consequence to that is maybe that dog is certainly going to look to other dogs as fun and as entertainment. There can be a happy medium. You can have a dog that is fine playing with other dogs and is still fine playing with his owner. That is only going to come about if you regularly play with the dog. That’s my little take on socialization. I think that your dog needs to be socialized, certainly as a puppy. Needs to have some exposure to other dogs.
If your dog is a little bit older and he’s a bit crankier, maybe he’s a bit like me, he doesn’t like going out so much, meeting new kinds of people, that’s fine. That’s absolutely fine, absolutely fine. You just make sure you can provide all of the challenge and the fun and the play that your dog needs. He still needs those things. Don’t force him to want to play with other dogs. Don’t feel like your letting your dog down. Don’t feel like a failure like what I felt like with Flo when I was in the park and all the other dogs were playing all the owners were looking at me and I felt like I had an aggressive dog. I didn’t. She just didn’t like playing with other dogs.
I wish I had just not bothered to try and expose her to other dogs and trying to get her interested in playing with other dogs when she clearly, she didn’t like it. It’s about listening to your dog and understanding what your dog needs, what your dog is comfortable with. Don’t feel upset with yourself. Don’t feel like you’re letting your dog down at all if he doesn’t like playing with other dogs. That’s okay. That’s completely fine you can have a great time with your dog with the dog treats and the dog toys, just you and him having a good time alone.
That’s today’s lesson really, Alex. I want to take the pressure off socialization and bust the myths about socialization. Your dog doesn’t need to be everybody’s friend. If there’s a reason why he’s kicking off every time he sees other dogs, then maybe you should do something else. If you went out with your mates every night, you might be sick of it after 3 days, won’t you?
Alex: It’s like having too much of a good thing, really. That’s kind of true I suppose for dogs as well.
Dom: Yeah, and humans.
Alex: Yeah, absolutely.
Dom: This is one of the reasons why I wrote the book. I wanted to help the pet dog owners to for them to be the thing that their dog wanted to be with all the time. Feedback so far suggests that it is helping them to do that. The further ways that we can help them to do that are within the superhero dog owners in a circle, I’m going to be telling you more about that in the coming weeks. That’s going to be my own membership community that you can join where you can learn even more about the ways that you can be your own dog’s superhero, be the things that your dog follows around the park all the time.
The thing that your dog wants to be with when your out and about not just when you’re cuddling him on the couch. It’s very easy to have a dog who wants to be with you when you’re sitting sniffing his paws cuddling on the couch. We start introducing more distractions and it gets a bit more difficult. That’s it for the socialization.
We’re going to share with you now a little video which I think will help you to understand that you can be the most important thing in your dog’s life. This is a video that we took when we took the dogs on an adventure. It was a busy beach and there were lots of other dogs around. You can see from this video that me, and Alex, my son, we can keep great control of the dogs. We can be the thing that the dogs look at, that the dogs want to be with. The thing that makes the dogs happy. Even though we take the dogs out as a group, we don’t exercise with each other. They exercise and play with us. Hopefully this little video will help you to understand exactly what I’ve been talking about with regards to socialization.
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It’s really important that you have good control of the dogs all of the time, especially when we’re somewhere like this where we know there’s more people. For some of the dogs are just on who are just on a normal around the waist leash, Charlie is a bit calmer so he’s just on a normal leash. Betty and Alex are a bit more excited so they get gentle head collars, and this is all just to help us have more control. You know your own dog, you know how excitable he gets when you take him to the beach or the park or wherever so you can take the right steps to ensure that he’s got the right kind of lead or harness on or long lead that you’re going to need to keep good control of your dog. Let’ go to the beach then. Good boy, Charlie.
We’re here at the world famous cat and dog steps, and we’ve just come from the van to here. Before we go on the beach, I’m going to scout it out a little bit to see where it’s busy, see where it isn’t. I’m going to head somewhere where there’s nobody at when we first get there because it’s really important that we play a couple of games with the dogs and play a couple of games and practice a couple of recalls or do whatever it is that we need to do to get the dogs interested in us. It would be too difficult for the dogs to just be exposed to other dogs running around, people, kids, that kind of thing. I think it’s only fair on the dogs to do a little recap of all of the things and remind them of all of the good things that we’ve got and all of the fun things that we do, every time that we go to the beach or the park or wherever we go that’s a public place. That’s what we’re going to do right now. Come on guys.
We’ve arrived. We’re on the beach. Very exciting for the dogs. We found a spot here where it’s nice and quiet. We’re going to get the toys and the treats out again and we’re going to play with our dogs, we’re going to get them interested in the things that we’ve got, show the all the rewards and things that we’ve got and start to play some games. We let them off gradually, obviously so we let the calmest dogs off first. We spend a bit more time getting the more energetic dogs or the dogs that are more likely to struggle with control a bit more, we’re going to take a bit longer before we take those things off. It’s exactly the same exact thing you can do with your dog, obviously, you’re only going to have one dog. We have several out today, none of which are actually our dogs, they’re just dogs that we walk on a daily basis. This should be a lot easier for you. You can follow this process that we use and hopefully it will make it easier for you to control your dog when you take them out somewhere.
We’ve got a couple of dogs off now, a couple of dogs off lead. We’re always talking to the dogs, we want them checking in. We want to get this magic circle going around us so that they’re never going to far out of distance. We’re rewarding them just for checking in with us. They know that we’ve got things that we like and they enjoy playing it with us as well. Here we have little Dolly. You’re gorgeous, aren’t you Dolly. You’re gorgeous too Ruby.
A nice example here, because they didn’t know, or they don’t care, we don’t know. They did the exact opposite of what we did. They let their dog straight off the lead, and their dog was very very excited. He ran over to play or whatever. Fortunately all of our dogs were fairly interested in us. They kind of just followed us away from the other dog who followed us a little bit until he went back with his owners. That’s just a really great example why you should take a bit of time to stop, have 30 seconds, show your dog the things that you’ve got, talk to him. Make him do something.
If your dog is looking at you then he’s listening to you. That’s a good boy, Charlie. Good boy. If your dog is looking at something else, another dog or another part of the beach. Charlie is looking at Alex now because he’s got treats. If your dog is looking at something else then that’s the thing that he’s interested in. Eye contact is really important. Make sure you’re getting some eye contact from your dog and you’re rewarding eye contact. Make sure you’re getting eye contact regularly before you let your dog off the lead. All the time.
This is how we do it. It’s not particularly difficult, we just play with the dogs. We have things that we know the dogs like. Then we use them to keep the dog interested in us. We’re going to go along further along where it’s a bit busier now. We took the time to get the dogs interested. Put the ball away a second now. Even when we don’t have anything out, any treats or anything, put them away, the dogs are looking at us already. We’re creating a pattern of behaviour where the dogs look to us for fun and excitement all the time. We’re going to head a long the beach and the dogs can have a bit of a swim. Come on guys.