Q&A: How do I get my dog to like other dogs?

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Q: How can I socialize my 2-year-old Lab mix, a spayed female, who got social experience as a puppy and went to training, but still doesn’t like other dogs — mainly ones she has never met?
Lindsey C.

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Maverick, an adoptable Lab at Brookline Labrador Rescue, prefers the company of female dogs.

Mychelle Blake, CDBC, pet trainer and CEO of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, writes:

Remedial socialization is all about going at your dog’s pace. Keep in mind that dogs, just like people, may be discriminating in who they choose to be friends with. Here’s what you can try:

  • Observe your dog for signs of tension: a stiff body, lip licking, yawning, averting her eyes and head, scratching. Alone, these behaviors can indicate mild stress, or the need to lick food from her lips, or that she is tired, or have
    an itch! But when seen in clusters it usually indicates stress and tension.
  • Find calm, amiable dogs and introduce your girl to them one at a time in a neutral environment (i.e. not in either dog’s home or yard) to reduce the chances of territorial issues.
  • Keep the dogs on loose leashes. They should be very loose so they don’t inhibit body-language communication.
  • Walk the dogs together, starting at a manageable distance and gradually coming closer. [Watch a video demonstration.] This way, they’re moving past lots of interesting smells and sights, which usually helps to decrease any tension between the dogs.

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