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We adopted a puppy (50% Anatolian Shepherd, 50% unknown) a couple of months ago and have just started taking her out to socialize her with other people since she got her final shots. She absolutely loves meeting new people, and does so with a combination of sniffing, minor licking, and running in circles around them. However, my partner and I have differing views on how these interactions should occur and I'd like to know the commonly accepted way to avoid making any unnecessary social faux pas.

My partner feels that when strangers approach the dog we should allow them to pet her, but that we should keep tight control. If she attempts to go onto her hind legs and put her front paws on someone we should pull the leash tightly so that she is essentially standing on her back two legs with the front of her body supported by us in mid air. She sees it as our responsibility to closely oversee the situation and prevent unapproved interactions. In short, I guess she views others sort of as 'outsiders' who may want to just glimpse the outer bounds of human/dog interactions.

I, on the other hand, feel that when others interact with our puppy (and seem comfortable) they are taking on a sort of stewardship for her control at that point. I'm still holding the leash and ready to immediately respond in case anything gets out of hand, of course, but do not want to interfere. Restricting her in those situations feels to me like picking up one of our kids and holding their hands and feet together so that a stranger can poke them on the nose; that's no fun for anyone, as the interaction will be more genuine and meaningful if the two of them are allowed to interact in their own preferred paradigm. If the other people want to let the pup sniff their chest, or they want to dance with her or rub her belly, I don't want to restrict that enriched interaction.

Each of us is, I think, assuming others want to interact with our dog the way we've always wanted to interact with other peoples' dogs. I tend to have strangers' dogs on their backs getting belly rubs, smothered in good old-fashioned baby talking, within minutes of meeting. But I'm wandering now if I'm not the norm.

We both agree that we should not allow our pup to interact with others unless those people initiate the interaction themselves. And we try to make sure she has a harness on instead of just her collar when we're in busy places, so as to distribute any pull across her entire frame instead of just her neck.

What is expected of us, as dog owners, by the average person. This question is specific to American culture.

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2 Answers 2

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I think you are thinking about this the wrong way. If it was your child and someone wanted to shake their hand or give them a hug you would not say it is ok for your child to pull their hair, spit on them, pull on their clothing, kick them, or anything else that is generally considered anti-social. So why would the same thing be acceptable for dogs?

Similar to children, they learn to not do those things through correction and attention from their parent or guardians. As a parent it would be your job to make sure that your children learn good behavior; as a pet parent it is your job to make sure that your pet learns good behavior. And just like you would not let someone poke your child in the nose it is your responsibility to make sure that strangers are not doing anything that you or your dog are uncomfortable with.

Being that your dog is part Anatolian Shepard it is probably very smart. But it is also very strong with a strong protective instinct. There is a risk with letting your dog be too free with strangers that it could decide what was intended as play was a threat and your dog could respond in an aggressive manner. For that reason alone I would probably err on the side of not letting him play with strangers too much. It is unlikely, but the reality is if you are wrong just one time you lose your beloved pet, and someone else gets a nasty bite. Your dog can be very happy with petting and praise, and save the rough housing for you and your friends that you and the dog are comfortable with.

As for your behavior around strange dogs, it is not terribly abnormal but it is a bit improper. Not everyone wants their dogs trained to roughhouse with people. Many dogs do not know their own strength or do not realize that the size difference between an adult male and a child translate to being more fragile. And they do not realize that an elderly person may not be able to tolerate the fall if a dog jumps up on them. So before you roll around on the ground with the dog, or get it to jump up on you, make sure that you have the owner's OK.

As a stranger when I encounter you and your dog I expect that you will maintain control of your dog. If your dog seems friendly and interested I normally ask if I can pet him. Even here I expect that should your dog lunge for me or start to jump up that you are going to stop it. If you know that your dog likes to jump up then this is a good time to give a friendly warning to the stranger that he likes to jump up. In the end you are responsible for whatever your pet does. So do not let your pet get you into trouble.

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Excellent response; thank you. I do definitely warn strangers that she is a puppy and hasn't yet learned 'down' (at least when she's excited). –  Nicholas Jul 10 at 13:48

Since your dog is a puppy, socialization is essential. However, at the same time, so is training. I don't agree with you, but I don't agree with your partner either. First I'll explain which aspects I wholly disagree with in both of your propositions, then I'll give some advice on how I'd go about it.

The main thing I have an issue with in your partner's philosophy is the attitude in which she corrects. You should absolutely never pull so hard on your dog's leash that he is in the air by a collar (I'm making the assumption that the walking tool you're using is just a normal neck collar, and not a harness). I also disagree with you in the sense that it seems you don't see it necessary to correct minor behavioral issues.

The first thing I'd say is to go out and buy a harness if you haven't already. Since you're having pulling and jumping issues, I'd specifically suggest a SENSE-ation or an Easy Walk harness. I prefer the SENSE-ation, but it's harder to find. Go into a local pet shop and have one of their trainers help you size & fit your dog. The main difference between these two harnesses and other harnesses is that they're correctional. Instead of the leash attaching on the back, it attaches in the front, and is framed in a way that when you tug (or the dog pulls) on the leash, his entire body is turned around. In a situation where he may be pulling to greet another person on the sidewalk and you give a little tug, his whole body turns. Instead of his head facing where he wants it to be (the person), it's facing the opposite way. Eventually this conditions the dog to get used to "if I want to greet, I can't pull." Another benefit of a harness is that you can pull without damaging/hurting your dog nearly as much as a neck collar does.

Now, go and get your dog and leash. Attach the leash to the harness and let it drop. Wrap a piece of tape around the spot where the leash touches the ground (make sure the leash is tight). What this does is allow you to control your dogs jumping habits. If someone wants to pet your dog while you're walking or you're having company around at home, before letting the dog greet, step on the leash where the tape is wrapped. When the dog tries to jump, the weight of your foot shouldn't allow him to jump more than about an inch (if it does, reposition the tape). Again, eventually, he'll realize jumping is futile and you won't need to step on the leash anymore.

To further train your dog, you can grab some of your friends that are willing to help and do a few of the following exercises:

  1. Plan to meet your friend at a park/on a sidewalk. When your dog first greets them, if he jumps and/or acts obnoxiously, your friend should ignore the dog 100%. Whether that entails turning around so the dog is to their back or just looking up at you, hands to their side, your friend simply needs to ignore. The second the dog jumps down, your friend should immediately give the dog attention. If he jumps up again, begins mouthing, or does anything else obnoxious, the ignoring starts right back up again. Repeat this several times till the dog understands it, then plan to meet another time. Make sure that you don't try to correct your dog, let your friend do it. Don't step on the leash or pull at your dog unless he isn't understanding it and his behavior persists for several minutes. If it does, give a slight tug (if he's in the harness), step on the leash, and your friend should be able to reward him.

  2. Do the same as above, except in your home. You may find it useful to have the leash attached to your dog so you can step on it if he begins jumping too often.

  3. Do the same as above, except use treats. This adds another dimension where your dog may find it hard to remain calm. If your friend is holding treats in hand, but completely ignoring your dog, the dog should eventually learn that when he calms down he gets a treat. I don't recommend doing this until he's able to remain calm in exercises 1 & 2.

Keep in mind that socialization is something that the dog needs. If you're constantly guarding your dog, making sure that every little interaction is controlled, he won't know how to be social in an environment where everything isn't controlled. I'd also suggest getting the book The Dog Whisperer by Paul Owens, not to be confused with anything by Cesar Millan who I generally disagree with.

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Thank you. I appreciate this advice and will try some of these exercises. We do use a harness, though the one I've preferred attaches in the back. Our second harness is similar to the ones you posted, though. –  Nicholas Jul 14 at 12:21
    
@Nicholas Great that you have a harness. Since you have an anatolian mix and they get big, I highly suggest switching to the one that attaches to the front (get the Easy Walk or the Sensation, I swear... they're better than the rest. Which one do you currently have?). The ones that attach to the back are advertised as "correctional," but they really aren't. When the dog pulls, he's not corrected like in front-attaching harnesses. –  Jeremy Jul 14 at 15:47
    
The one I've been using attaches at the back; We bought it just because we wanted the 'pull' distributed over her upper body and not her neck. My partner actually picked up an "Easy Walk" harness not too much later but we never switched. We didn't realize the value. I'm going to try that one out this week. Thanks. –  Nicholas Jul 16 at 12:21
    
@Nicholas Great, I would give it a try. I agree with the pull distribution factor. Most harnesses are great for that and it's the main reason I prefer harnesses over collars. –  Jeremy Jul 16 at 15:00

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