This is an example of an email I receive from distressed puppy owners several times per month….

My dog was taken to the dog park at least 6 times a month during the first 7 months of his/her life, in addition to daily interactions with dogs we let him play with all the dogs on the beach!  Once he/she turned 10 months old he/she started becoming aggressive with large pushy dogs or any dog who challenged him/her. He/she can get along with some smaller dogs depending on that dog.  My dog has two adult dogs that he/she has known since he/she was 8-10 weeks old that he/she gets along GREAT with.” 

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Henry and Nell clearly express their intentions to engage in mutual play.

Will your puppy be exposed to being pushed around by rough adolescent dogs?  Is it true aggression breeds more aggression?  Do you know who your dog is playing with now and what that friend is teaching your dog?  Is it true a puppy can be over socialized?

As a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant I am swamped with dog aggressive dogs who owners all report they were fine when they were puppies.

All of these dogs who were once dog friendly have one thing in common….they have experienced bully behavior through social learning.

Ask anyone who has raised a puppy and allowed that pup to play with other young puppies in a supervised class or the neighbors friendly dog or their family members friendly dog and they will tell you that their dog has remained friendly.  They have never encouraged their pup to play in large packs of rough adolescent canine play.  As a bonus, these puppies leash manners are wonderful as they are not use to being able to pull their owners to every dog they see.

If I get a puppy next year which is a strong possibly, I will make sure I know who my pup is playing with and I will observe this play so my puppy does not become too confident and begin being a bully to other dogs.  I will absolutely allow my dog the joy’s of playing, however with only very friendly dogs that I know and if he/she begins to be too pushy, I will step in immediately to lower the arousal, even if I have to step in many times during the same play session so it does not become over the top or rough.  Practiced behaviors become strong habits, let’s make sure our dogs are practicing good habits each day so they remain dog friendly.

Seek out a friend with a very social dog and slowly introduce them by taking a 30 minute walk near each other.  After this long walk, you should have a good idea if both dogs are interested in interacting or not. My Outdoor Adventure Class give owners a safe place to allow their dogs to play while being supervised.  Often members of class exchange numbers and meet outside of class knowing that arranging play dates will keep their dogs play skills appropriate.