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Doggy social situations are more and more common now, especially with the rise in social media, allowing us to meet more like minded people. Doggy Day Cares and even Doggy Parties are more commonplace too, as well as a host of events targeted at dogs specifically, such as Dog Fest. Is there a social etiquette for these events though? I don’t mean which butt your dog should sniff first, but issues such as illness, anxiety, even toilet cleanliness, should all be considered when your pup is wanting to be the social butterfly of the pet world.
Illness is an obvious one, and most doggy day cares and events require vaccinations to be up to date, including Kennel Cough, though due to the huge variation is strains means the vaccination is not 100% effective, and any sign of a cough means your dog really shouldn’t be out and about, potentially infecting others. Any signs of illness mean you pup really shouldn’t be out and about with others, as not only are they a risk to others, but it will also put stress on your dog when it already isn’t feeling great. If you’ve been invited on a walk but your dog isn’t 100%, best to skip it.
Another important thing to bear in mind is the anxiety and stress levels of your dog. It might be great around other dogs, but not great with farm animals, for example, so be careful about which walks you agree to. If your dog isn’t 100% confident around others, it’s important to take this into consideration. Nipping somewhere for short time might be tolerable, but going to a dog event all day might be asking too much of your pet. Most Day Cares will carry out their own social assessment before taking your dog on, so you can be sure if it’s the right fit for your friend first, but make sure you visit extensively first, and be sure to check what they do for dogs that are either too boisterous or dogs that need to get away from it all.
There are lots of great walking accessories to help with nervous dogs, such as bandanas, collars, harnesses and leads that all warn others that this dog needs some space. These can be a great way of just making people stop being come straight to your dog, or to encourage them to keep their own dog away. At walking events, it’s easier to keep a more timid dog active and calm whilst continually walking, than one in an enclosed space such as a room or single field. Woodland or beach walks usually provide enough interest for other dogs to explore that allows the calmer dogs to remain on lead and still enjoy the experience. Just because other dogs are off lead doesn’t mean you have to let yours off and being cautious is the best way to go.
Being aware of the surroundings is vital to a successful social event making sure you know if a cyclist/horse/sheep/specific breed (delete as applicable) could turn up so you can be on watch. It comes down to it being your fault if you allow you dog into a situation they cannot deal with. Even the most social dog can baulk at overwhelming situations, so be sure to keep an eye out at all times. In large group walks, such as breed specific events or festivals, it can be hard to always see your pup if they’re off lead sometimes it’s worth “buddying-up” with a few friends, to walk in stages and all keep an eye out for each other’s dog.
The main thing to remember as much as you might want to do something, or be involved with it, you must remember the affect it will have on your pooch first and foremost, and let that make your decision. In the end, putting your dog in the wrong social situation can cause serious damage if they become overly stressed, and could leave you with ongoing issues to resolve. For the perfect pup though, why not let them be the social butterfly of their group!