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Don't Ask Your Dog to Fit In A Box

Some dogs just don’t like other dogs.

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This is terrible news for the many who have gotten a dog envisioning for themselves America’s dream.

In this dream, dog ownership looks like a dog food commercial. It looks like carefree running and hiking and walking and playing. It looks like a happy group of dogs romping in an idyllic pasture or park together. In this dream, dog ownership is fairly simple and the benefits are huge. Dog parks are the go-to for exercise and fun for your dog. Walks are fun and social, and you and your dog can pause and say hi to another neighborhood walker with a dog. Anyone can come over for a bbq (and bring your dogs! we’re a dog friendly home!) and you all have a great time.

This dream is wonderful, and beautiful.

But it isn’t realistic. It doesn’t take into account the variety of dogs’ personalities and preferences. It don’t acknowledge natural behaviors like resource guarding. It assumes all dogs are fairly one-dimensional.

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If you own a dog and have been introduced to dog parks and neighborhood walks, you have realized quickly it’s not a simple as all that.

🐾 There are levels of dog-on-dog sociability. Some dogs are social with all dogs. Some are somewhere on the scale of p-selectiveness. Some very few would simply rather not, thanks.

🐾 And then there’s the question of a dog’s ability to communicate with and listen to other dogs. A highly sociable dog with zero understanding of or respect for other dogs’ signals is a menace. A more selective dog with no tolerance and a short fuse is a problem.

🐾 Add to all that an owner who means well and is chasing that dream, but is innocently oblivious of what their dog is like and what he is saying? We get conflict, stress, anxiety.

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Training can balanced out your dog.

A rude, overly rambunctious dog can be taught to be more polite and read his fellows’ signals.

A selective dog can be taught to give clear signals before flying off the handle.

A truly intolerant dog can be taught to make good choices.

But all of this requires oversight, advocacy, and clear communication from humans. To all dogs. None of which is provided at a dog park. (There are other, better options!)

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Bruin here does not want other dogs in his space in any way. He will show no signals and won’t react until a dog is quite close.

He is not interested in playing with dogs at all. He prefers time with humans doing fun stuff.

Bruin has been learning to share space with other dogs through obedience. He is not allowed to advocate for himself while in a command, and must trust his handler to advocate for him. This will make him a joy to walk and run with! And able to handle surprises because his owner will be there and will handle it. Bruin won’t be forced to be where he would really rather not be, expected to deal with it and hold in his dislike. But he will be expected to have impulse control and do the job he’s given (a stay or heeling for example) no matter what.

And for that to work, his owner will be committed to being there for him. His owner will guide him and handle everything so he doesn’t have to.

(this means he CAN go on walks with other dogs!)

This is a much more relaxed and fun way for Bruin to live, and makes way for a new dream in which Bruin and his owner can both enjoy life together without pressure, unreasonable expectations, or conflict.

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