Without proper socialization dogs can develop shyness and anxiety issues around other dogs. Different dogs have different personalities with varying tolerance levels for other dogs. Some love socializing, some don’t, but all dogs should be calm and passive in the presence of their canine brethren. Simple and kind conditioning techniques can help even the shyest pooch make peace with the presence of other dogs.
Leash your dog and introduce him to a new dog or group of dogs. Let them mingle.
Observe your dog, paying special attention to the triggers that cause anxiety. For example, if he becomes anxious when a new dog sniffs him, physical contact may be the trigger. Some dogs may only be anxious when surrounded by larger dogs, others may react to small dogs. Identify patterns in his behavior.
Note down the body language and behavior Lucky exhibits when anxious. He may growl aggressively, roll over submissively, bark in a distressed manner or simply try to escape. Knowing the signs are essential.
Leash Lucky so you can guide him away if he becomes too anxious, but resist the urge to intervene. Dogs are great at setting their own boundaries using body language, so give the pair enough time to get to know each other. Speak to fellow dog owners in your neighborhood about helping Lucky with his problem.
Introduce Lucky to one dog. Use a dog that Lucky has met before whom you know to be well trained and friendly. If Lucky gets anxious around big dogs, use a small dog and vice versa.
Use your understanding of his anxious behavior to judge whether or not to lead him away. Don’t intervene unless Lucky becomes highly distressed or aggressive.
End the interaction after five minutes and take Lucky away for an unrelated activity, such as play or grooming. The point of allowing Lucky to interact with this dog is to make the presence of other dogs appear normal. Don’t give Lucky any special treatment at this stage, as he’ll sense that you see presence of the other dog as a big deal.
Repeat the interaction daily, gradually increasing the time period the dogs spend together each day.
Leash Lucky and walk him to the park. Give him regular verbal praise in a calm, relaxed manner. Here, you’re reinforcing calm behavior. In doing so, you can remove the reinforcer if he becomes anxious.
Loosen or extend the leash so Lucky can interact freely. Continue to verbally praise Lucky.
Monitor his body language and behavior. If he appears calm, continue to praise him. Should he appear anxious or unsettled, guide him away using the leash and stop praising him. Removing the praise isn’t a punishment, but by removing a positive stimulus you show Lucky that anxiety has an unwanted outcome.
Ignore Lucky for five minutes and give him a time-out. If you lavish him with reassurance and fuss at this stage, he’ll learn to act anxiously in order to receive attention. By acting calmly and as if nothing unusual is happening, Lucky will follow your lead and assume everything is cool. Socialize Lucky at least twice a week.
Whenever Lucky gets too anxious, calmly walk him away. With sufficient repetition, the exposure to the other dogs will continue the desensitization process you began with the single dog. Regular praise for calmness will show Lucky that you like it when he mingles with other dogs.
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