Before I had a dog I had no idea just how social they are. I had heard about the importance of socializing your dog but I thought that was more about making sure your dog is not aggressive, or that it knows how to behave around humans and other dogs. What I didn’t realize was just how important it is to let your dog socialize because it’s fun. Dogs LOVE to play and they love to play with each other.
Avy has a friend in the building named Alice. She’s a lovely one year old Boxer/Lab mix with a fantastic personality. Soon after meeting the two dogs were fast friends. We often walk in the woods together and if my neighbour or I are going to be away or out we pitch hit and babysit the others dog. if I so much as whisper “do you want to go for a walk with Alice?” Avy is instantly on her feet and heading for the door – she completely understands what I’m asking. If I ask if she wants to go to Alice’s house she will lead me to the stairwell and take me up to where Alice lives.
Today I experienced the next level of dog bonding. When Avy, Alice and I went out for a walk around the block we met with another neighbour and his puppy Gus. Gus is a tiny Boston Terrier who is full of energy and has no fear. We also ran into a fourth neighbour and his Mastif/Ridgeback cross, Kane. Gus was thrilled to play with the “big” dogs and together they had a great run around the parkade at top speed. Avy and Alice were leading the pack with Gus and Kane close behind. At times Gus got a bit impatient and would nip at the bigger dogs, particularly Kane. Every time he did this Kane would give him a quick and firm correction. At one point Gus’s owner commented “he just never learns”. But he does. Everytime he plays with the older dogs he learns a bit more about how to socialize with them, what is appropriate behaviour and what is not ok. And it’s the other dogs that are teaching him. As he mature’s and spends more time with the “big dogs” Gus will learn exactly how to interact, play and have a good time without crossing lines. He’ll learn what is appropriate play and what is not. And he’ll enjoy every minute of it.
When you make the decision to adopt a dog it’s important to understand what you’re getting into. Dogs aren’t solitary creatures – and they don’t just want to be around humans – they are social and playful and having time with other dogs to play and interact is just as important as a walk in the neighbourhood or a game of fetch. Allowing dogs to explore their social side allows them to learn from each other and mature into the kind of dog you are happy to introduce at the dog park.