Is Your Dog Properly Socialized?

When people hear the term “Socialization” one takes it as a form of direct contact with other dogs or people; The first stage of socialization is the stage many seem to forget because the general population doesn’t understand how important it is.

Socialization begins with co-existence.

Our philosophy at Complete Canine Training is to expose your dog to as many environmental elements and real-life situations as we can, which we believe can be accomplished at any age!

What is Socialization?

Socialization is exposure to certain environmental triggers including but not limited to; dogs, people, sights, sounds, and even different surface textures. When working around other dogs and people we don’t look for direct contact but rather co-existence. I know people like you and I want well-rounded dogs that can deal with the stress of everyday life and the environmental pressure the world can put on our dogs. I’m here to help you paint that perfect picture of a well-socialized dog!!

Coaching dogs through the fear period and how to exist in the world without reactivity and anxiousness is the biggest factor in socialization.
Keep in mind when beginning socialization, this can put a lot of pressure on dogs. Training is never linear; every dog is different. We will be utilizing our obedience techniques to teach things like how to stay in a proper heel, greet people appropriately, adjust to different surfaces, textures, and places, as well as how to walk calmly past various distractions in the world.

Socialization isn’t just giving your dog a group of friends, it is how to exist in a very busy environment in the calmest possible way.

  • We want our dogs to build value with us and not the other distractions in the environment.
    If we allow our dogs to interact with every person or dog they see it will build value with them and disvalue with you.
  • Quality over Quantity
    It comes down to the quality of the interactions and not the quantity of interaction!
    In a year your dog could meet 100+ dogs and people, and it had semi-good experiences with most of them. Some may have gone poorly, some went really well, and a lot of them were mediocre.
    What happens in the long run is we don’t create this perfect image with other dogs and people but more so create a tarnished image, which leads to fear, anxiety, or reactivity.

Remember, socialization isn’t about the quantity of people and dogs you introduce your dog to, it’s about the quality of the people and dogs!

If your dog socialized with 5 dogs out of the year, and those 5 socializations went perfectly, as opposed to 500 where over half of those didn’t go as planned. You’re going to have better results in the end, rather than pushing the 500 interactions. Make sure when you’re socializing your dog to set it up as perfect of a situation as possible.

Dog parks are NOT the place for socializing, your daily walk does NOT count either.

Small controlled groups with dogs that are stable and people that are stable so you can have the best outcome possible. This helps keep that pristine picture of dogs and people long term.

But aren’t dog parks designed for dog socialization!?

As a dog owner, I understand the common theory behind dog parks and how they are initially designed to have dog-to-dog social interaction. I always find that there will always be problematic situations because there are so many variables in one situation. Many dogs don’t know each other and therefor can cause conflict. It only takes ONE bad encounter with another dog to damage a very happy-go-lucky dog that loves to greet everyone and everything. Yes, dogs are descendants of wolves are pack animals. But we need to keep in mind our dogs do NOT need to be friends with everyone and that is OKAY!!

Let’s put it into a situation for us; Imagine if we had to hug and shake hands with every person we saw and we weren’t given the opportunity to express that we don’t want that interaction… That situation happens to our dogs in dog parks. Many inappropriate dogs attend dog parks which will cause heavy conflict and tension for dogs that don’t want to partake in those activities.

Do you want a dog that’s properly socialized and can co-exist with dogs and people? Here are some tips I would like to recommend to help you achieve that perfect dog!

Places I like to take my personal dogs include but are not limited to Home Depot, Tractor Supply, Lowe’s, Home Goods, open parks with a fenced perimeter, and any and all neutral environments.

I absolutely love utilizing these places as I can help structure the environment. I can change the layout and adjust to what each dog needs help with. If I have a dog who is nervous about loud noises or the sound of metal/wood etc, I love using Home Depot & Lowe’s. I can use the environment around me and paint the picture for the dog to show them how to be comfortable with those noises and how to relax as the noises are present. I’m utilizing my high-value rewards in those moments to release Endorphins, Serotonin, and Dopamine in the brain and show the dog how to remain calm, and happy and how to engage with me. (the best thing in the room). High-value rewards include toys, food, etc.)

I want a dog that’s engaged with me versus the environment. I want to build my dog’s confidence with these exposures. It builds more trust with you as the handler. Another great public resource I like to use is an open field. An open field has many advantages for you and your dog. You can allow your dog to interact with their environment and also play a great place for a game of fetch! 🙂

Remember to have a long line! That way you can communicate with your dog effectively as they are interacting with the environment.

Socializing with Other Dogs

Before I begin socializing my dog with other dogs; the dog needs to understand their name followed by a solid recall before going into those pressures. We need to make sure they have a 100% reliable recall before we allow them that freedom to play and engage with other dogs.

One of the biggest problems most people have when it comes to interactions with other dogs is they will drop the leash, and not recall their dog off the other dog after engaging in play and then the dog will continue to build engagement with that other dog. That then quickly teaches the dog they can ignore you and not come when called under heavy distraction.

Often times people will also have on-leash interaction and the interaction are with tight leashes.
This is a big no-no as this can cause frustration and lead to a bigger issue.

When we have greetings with dogs we want to ensure we are in an open environment that’s not subject to their own. We don’t want interaction with new dogs in our own home but rather a neutral environment where no dogs have set boundaries. Always ensure both parties have loose leashes and A SOLID RECALL so you can recall your dog when needed to deflect the interaction. You can also have the interaction in a co-existing manner by working around each other and staying engaged with us rather than the other dog.

Playing with other dogs is not what we are against.

It’s about what we can get from the dog first before using dogs as a resource because it’s a huge value for dogs to get that particular attention versus our own.

The most beneficial aspect of Complete Canine Training is having a controlled environment and structured interactions. We offer this through all of our classes and it’s extremely beneficial in our group classes. Our group classes are a wonderful way to work in a controlled environment and work on things such as our sit/down duration with another dog next to them without interacting. We also work on recalls with other dogs in the environment and how to co-exist without having to interact with everyone and everything.


Socialization doesn’t have to be boring! Be fun! Remember what I said about being the funnest thing in the room? Be that for your dog! Having this constant communication will help your dog’s confidence and engagement!

I know back in grade school it was hard for me to keep my engagement with my teacher and not take in all the information if they were boring. I kept engaged and learned a lot more with my teachers which made the learning more interactive and positive!
Always set your dog up for success!! Training is never linear and our dogs are not robots! Take these learning opportunities and use them to your advantage!!

Happy Training!

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