Not all of our fuzzy, tail-wagging friends are the same. Just like people, dogs come with their own strengths, weaknesses, and backstories.
For people who have dogs with social behavioral issues, it can be a real challenge. Their loving and intelligent pup that loves cuddles and fetch at home may turn into a different dog around other dogs, kids, or strangers. For those dogs, finding activities for them can be tough. These are the dogs that can’t go to a dog park, go on a walk around people, or be in an uncontrolled social environment.
If you have a dog with negative social behaviors, you can still find activities for them that can be enriching. These activities may be more difficult to find, but it can be done. Once you’ve identified the problem areas, you can then begin to find the activities that work for your pup.
Identify the Problem Areas
Take some time to go through your dog’s behavioral issues and narrow down the triggers. Though we often don’t know a rescue dog’s backstory, there may be some insight in their past. A dog who has been abused or neglected may exhibit negative behaviors associated with that abuse. However, some dogs have issues that seem to stem from nowhere. Either way, work to narrow down the problem. Is your dog aggressive around other dogs in general or just dogs in their space? Are they afraid of all strangers or just men? Are they toy aggressive? Are their behaviors worse on a leash? Identify the problem areas in order to create activities that will be enriching and not problematic.
Take a Training Class
Training classes can do a lot for your dog beyond the training it provides. Not only will training help you learn how to train your dog away from some of their negative social behaviors, your trainer can also help you understand what is causing the problems. In addition to that, training can be fun and enriching for them. You may consider looking into individual sessions if your dog doesn’t get along great with others, but it’s a great step towards correcting bad behaviors or just taking part in some learning activities that will be fun for them. Not all dogs are great with other animals, but your dog can still be great at learning commands. Plus, a trained dog will better listen to you in situations that cause bad social behaviors.
Go on Dog-Friendly Vacations
Many dogs love new experiences. New places mean new smells, and new smells are basically the dog version of sightseeing. Having a dog that isn’t great in social situations might be difficult to travel with, but some travel situations can be designed around a dog with behavioral issues. An RV trip, for instance, can be ideal for them. There’s a lot of space in the RV, and you don't have to worry about hotel stays with a dog with behavioral issues. Just be sure you’re using chemical-free cleaning products like vinegar to clean your RV (1) so that your pup doesn’t get sick. Traveling in a space like an RV can mean a difficult time keeping your dog out of cleaning products.
You can also try camping. It’s a great choice because there’s a lot to do, and you can pick a location away from others. Just be sure to take safety precautions like keeping them close and giving them a safe place to sleep. You can also try day trips to hike or swim with your pup locally where you know not many people go. A dog with behavioral issues doesn’t have to miss out on adventure; it just means you have to find the alternatives that work for them.
Find Your Place
Creating enriching activities for your dog can mean just finding the right place to take your dog. Finding this place is a game changer for many dog owners with pups that have some social behavioral issues. This can mean your own backyard, a friend’s private property, a hidden gem campground that no one uses, a beach that’s been largely ignored, or a path that no one seems to use. Finding your place can mean finding a place to take your dog for a walk, swim, hike, or outing without others around that may trigger their aggressive, scared, or stressed behaviors that keep them from dog parks and walks around the neighborhood. Your dog can get familiar with this place and feel at ease there.
Some people might be able to bring their dog to dog-friendly stores or restaurants, and that’s obviously not a great option for dogs with social issues. Instead, take your dog on drives so they can smell the smells and don’t have to get out of the car. Ask a friend to borrow their yard and visit there, where things are new but the environment is controlled. Your place might not be a social one, but it’s a place that can be enriching without being stressful.
Timing Is Everything
Get to know the schedules around you and you’ll have a much better time finding your place at the right time. For instance, many dogs tend to have issues with mail carriers (2). Having a stranger knock on the door or be near your home can be jarring for dogs with social behavioral problems. Be sure you’re not taking your dog out when your mail carrier comes around to avoid that confrontation. If your neighborhood park is busy in the afternoon, try checking it out in the early mornings. Fetch is a great enriching activity for your dog (3). An off-leash park away from peak times can make the perfect location for a fun activity.
Finding your place may be all about finding a place that would normally be off-limits at the right time, then it can become your place. Schools on the weekends, parks on the weekdays, camping when it’s colder, or tourist attractions on the off-season can all be great places to try.
Dogs that fear people, children, or other animals are not bad dogs; they are just dogs that require more patience and a responsible owner. Being responsible doesn’t mean your dog has to sit at home all day avoiding others. An enriching activity for your dog with social behavioral issues can be as simple as sitting on the porch with them while you read, throwing a ball for them in your own fenced yard, or taking them somewhere free of social triggers. It does mean that your dog will rely on you for social interaction since they aren’t great around others, but that’s not such bad thing either.
Chelsy Ranard Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in beautiful Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She is passionate about animal rights, bad television, and white wine. She is a volunteer at Simply Cats in Boise.