Ways To Socialize Your Dog: 7 Alternatives to Dog Parks
I’ve never been a fan of dog parks. Going to dog parks is one of the ways to socialize your dog, but it can come at a high cost as we found out last week. A maltese mix, Ranger, was attacked by a larger dog at a local dog park. His injuries were so severe he wasn’t able to recover.
Below are ways to socialize your dog, from Whole Dog Journal. Although the article was written for puppies not fully immunized, the ideas work for any dog that needs additional socialization.
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Invite Friends Over
Exposing your dog to a variety of people that you see on a regular basis such as children, men, women, even the UPS drive gives him experience with people in different settings and builds his confidence.
Go To Friend’s House
Being in a new environment gives your dog a chance to experience new sights and sounds and builds his confidence.
Host Play Date
Screen potential playmates before inviting them to your home to be sure they’re healthy, vaccinated and not dog aggressive. Ensure the play area is secure to prevent escapes, and do not leave the dogs unattended while they’re playing.
Since my dogs are small breed (toy and miniature poodles), I’ve done this many times. Your dog has a safe vantage point to view all that’s going on, without potentially being injured in a crowd.
Go For Car Rides
If your dog is very fearful about car rides, start out with very short distances, then gradually increase the distance. Change destinations, many people only take their dog for car rides to the vet’s office. Of course the dog won’t be crazy to go for a ride if he equates it only to a vet visit!
As a special treat for my dogs, we’ll do occasional visits to the Starbucks drivethru. It’s their favorite place to go, they absolutely LOVE their Pup Cups!
Ensure your dog’s safety on car rides by putting them in a car seat or safety harness.
Go To Vet Office To Weigh Dog
This may sound a little strange, but it’s a great way to reduce vet visit fear and let your dog know the vet isn’t always a scary place. After weigh-in, give your dog a treat to show him the vet office isn’t always bad.
Visit Dog-Friendly Businesses
Most pet supply stores allow dogs, but many other businesses allow pets, too. Many hardware stores, HomeGoods, and Sephora stores in our area are pet friendly.
Some restaurants that have patios for outside dining are open to pets, and some offer pet-friendly menus. If you have a particular store or restaurant in mind to take your dog, call first to find out if they allow pets, and any special limitations that may have.
As we’ve shown here, there are many ways to socialize your dog other than the dog park. In my view, the risks far outweigh the benefits.
If you are considering dog park play for your dog, go check out the park before taking your dog:
- Look for separate play areas for small dogs and one for larger dogs (the park where Ranger was attacked did not have this.)
- Observe the dogs and their owners. Watch for overly aggressive dog play and lack of attentiveness from dog owners.
- If you notice one or more of these factors, look for another park.
Unfortunately, the information in this post won’t help Ranger, but hopefully will help prevent further dog park tragedies in the future.