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  • 6 Great Dog Park Alternatives for Socialization

    6 Great Dog Park Alternatives for Socialization

    Posted July 20, 2017 By in Around Denver, Educational With | 2 Comments

    Socializing your dog is one of the most important things you can do for him. 

    And by socializing, we don’t just mean with other dogs. Socialization with other dogs is important, but so is exposing your dog to a variety of other stimuli, like different people and environments, and never forcing your dog to do so when they’re not ready.

    Many people believe dog parks are the best way to socialize their dog, and dog parks do have a place, but they’re also very risky and not for every dog – especially young puppies and here is why: 

    • Most dog parks don’t require dogs to be up to date on vaccinations, and those that do rarely enforce it.
    • Many dog parks, including a few in Denver, have what is considered to be an unsafe level of e-coli bacteria from owners not picking up after their pets. This can make your dog sick, especially if they drink the water. 
    • There aren’t any restrictions on who can attend the dog park,and there isn’t a dog park referee to monitor who is or isn’t friendly. So while many dogs are friendly, a good number lack proper social skills due to age, being fearful and anxious, high prey or herding drives, resource guarding tendencies and getting away with poor social behaviors like bullying due to lack of proper socialization. Not only does this put your dog at risk for a fight, but they can also learn bad habits from other dogs. 

    So if not dog parks, where can you take your dog to socialize? We have a few suggestions…

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    Dog Park Alternatives for Doggy Socialization

    1. Puppy Socialization Classes with Reputable Trainers – Noble Beast offers a FREE Puppy Socialization program every weekend that includes a limit on how many dogs can attend, verified vaccine records on ALL pups, are ran by a Noble Beast Certified Trainer, and are structured in a way that helps your dog learn proper socialization behavior! 
    2. Home Depot and Lowes – Both of these stores allow leashed dogs inside. This provides a great environment for meeting new people, as well as to practice those obedience skills in a distracting environment. Many of the employees even carry treats around and will gladly give your pup some love! 
    3. Pet Supply Stores – Pet stores almost always allow friendly dogs on leash, but always use your own judgement as friendly doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. This environment offers both human and pet encounters, with lots of smelly distractions. 
    4. Puppy Play Dates With Friends – Make play dates with your friends that also have dogs or puppies! We recommend asking before hand if their dogs are up to date on all vaccinations and pairing your dog up with a dog with a similar play style. 
    5. Group Day Training – This is a canine social enrichment program for both puppies AND adult dogs. We place your dog with a Certified Noble Beast Trainer and up to five other dogs (vaccinations required). In this class, the dogs do get to explore relationships, play, setting and respecting boundaries and co-mingling with other dogs in a very controlled environment under the watchful eye of one of our trainers. They also get to work on obedience cues, manners, and even some tricks. This is super beneficial for those impressionable puppies and adolescent dogs. 
    6. Doggy Day Care – This option is definitely for the dog that fits in to the daycare mold – and quite honestly, there are a lot more dogs that don’t than do! This is for the dog that truly enjoys being in the presence of other dogs, has a lot of energy to burn, is respectful of boundaries of both people and dogs, is okay with sharing, is able to self sooth, and can be easily directed out of highly aroused situations.
    • A good doggy day care is very conscious about the dogs they allow into their play groups, literally refereeing the dog’s play at all times. They also adhere to the state regulated human/dog ratio, have handlers who have been well trained in not only dog body language and dog care, but also in dog emergencies, and hold a PACFA License. This License means that they have been inspected and approved by the State to run a doggy day care. If a day care is ran any other way, you want to stay clear of it, because just like a dog park, you are putting your dog at risk of a fight or picking up bad habits from other dogs.

    Note: Noble Beast Dog Training will be opening up a doggy day care in the near future! Contact Mindy if you would like to be added to the wait list! Mindy@NobleBeastDogTraining.com!

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    Tips for Dog Socialization 

    • Always remember to ask the owner if it’s okay for your dog to approach. Not everyone loves dogs and some dogs need their space. It’s important to respect that! 
    • Keep your dog on a leash unless in an off leash dog park. Your dog running up to a leashed dog can cause the leashed dog (and owner) a lot of anxiety if they are not comfortable with other dogs and/or need to take things slowly.
    • Watch your dog’s body language and always remove them from a situation that they are uncomfortable with. Signs could include a tail ruck, raised hackles, lips curling, excessive yawning, very slow movements, freezing or giving the side eye. 
    • We recommend a 3-5 second play rule to start off with. If one dog jumps on top of the other, remove them and see if the bottom dog comes back for more. It’s important for you to advocate for your dog, but also to keep him from intimidating another dog, even if unintentionally.
    • Understand that like people, dogs have different social preferences. Some enjoy hanging with people more, while others want nothing more than to romp with the dogs!  Some dogs have a few buddies, with no desire to make more friends, and others are social butterflies that HAVE to say hi to every living thing they come across. All of this is normal! Respect your dog’s social preference and don’t try to make a social butterfly conform or an introvert blossom. Your dog will be much happier in the end! 

    Click here to read about socialization tips for puppies

    Mindy Jarvis

    Certified Dog Trainer & Behavior Consultant / Owner of Noble Beast Dog Training

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Comments (2)

Reply
Name (required) » 06. Aug, 2017

I have a little mix (Shelty, Heeler, ???) who has been terrified since being rejected at birth. She would hide or her hair would stand up to act like a big girl. After four year and no progress I decided on a new approach. I began walking her 2-4 miles a day in my neighborhood. When I would see a dog coming in the distance I would tell her a Buddy was coming and I was excited for her. Soon she was becoming excited when I told her to look for a Buddy. I now have people noticing how much more social she is and how engaged she is. What a joy to see her so much happier. She even plays with a ball now. I write this because I believe I was a big part of her timidity. I spent so much time protecting her and not enough time “testing the waters” so to speak. Needless to say we are a happier pair.

Reply
Mindy Jarvis » 06. Aug, 2017

What a great thing to share with us! I agree, it is very easy to want to protect the ones you love, especially when you can see they are having a hard time, feeling scared, or not adapting well to situations.

A good socialization protocol comes with balance. It is very important to expose your pup to things, but all the while making sure it is not too fast or too slow, too much or too little, or too intense or not challenging enough.

Bubble wrapping your dogs can cause just as much damage as pushing them out of the nest and expecting them to handle all of life’s challenges on their own. Thank you so much for sharing!