Help! My dog says hello to everyone!
(Q) We have a one-year-old Labrador. We got her when she was four months old. We were her second home because her first family decided they didn't like the not-so-cute pup any more. As we weren't around for that crucial socialising period, we don't know how much she has been socialised. She is very friendly to all dogs and people, but when on walks, she will run over to every dog to say hello. Is there any way I can change this?
(A) Behaviourist Steve Goward says: Sometimes when dogs haven't had the opportunity to socialise with other dogs regularly, a rebound behaviour can occur, which means the previously thwarted social experiences become even more important than usual. Of course, it could just be that you have a particularly sociable dog.
Either way, I would tackle this problem with two main points to focus on. Firstly, ensure there are plenty of opportunities for your dog to meet and play with appropriate dogs in a safe setting.
Secondly, teach her a really solid recall to keep her safe when out and about. Recall problems can occur for many reasons and although your Lab is friendly, not every dog she goes to visit may be as sociable. The use of a long line fixed to a harness can provide some security while you train her.
If your dog normally comes back when called with no distractions, start by getting her to come back to you as she heads off after something with less value than other dogs.
This could be a low-value treat, a toy, or a person. As she starts to head towards the distraction, call her back, making yourself more interesting than the object of her attention.
When she returns, reward her with a favourite treat, toy, or game, along with plenty of praise. It is important to start with low-value distractions and call her back before she gets too far away, as it is often harder for dogs to recall when they are well on their way to the target object.
Training classes could be a good way of implementing both parts of this programme - just be sure to attend classes that use positive training techniques and that allow the dogs to have some fun together.