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How to get your dog used to others

Ellena Swift advises the owners of a timid labrador

Getting a dog used to others

To make a dog less timid, begin with some gentle socialising

Q: How do I get my dog used to others? I rescued a labrador from a local family, and after a little research discovered he has working lines and came from a gundog kennels. I have started following a few trainers and replicating what they do with him, which is going very well. The only issue he has is with other dogs; as soon as another dog approaches he shuts down and either won’t move at all or bolts back to me. (Read should you get a rescue dog?)

A friend of mine who works their dog said he could never go on a shoot as he needs to be sociable. Is this true? Or do people tend to keep their dogs focused and away from the others?

Getting a dog used to others

A: You haven’t said how old he is, but I assume that if he’s enjoying his new training, he is able to learn. He may well have had a bad experience or simply be naturally timid. On a shoot day, everyone’s dog should be focused and ignore all other dogs. Sadly, this is not always the case and occasionally you do get a rather rude or over-friendly dog. However this does not mean you cannot manage it and build him up.

Firstly, only train him around placid, focused dogs. He will then start to build his confidence so that even if other dogs are around they will not harass him. A local gundog trainer could add you to a group lesson to help with this.

Secondly, you must always protect him from other dogs. Friendly or not, for the time being take control of situations that may worry him. By showing him you will protect him, his confidence in you will grow and he is therefore a lot less likely to react.

Thirdly, start with some very gentle socialising. Begin in a secure area with dogs that simply ignore him. Allow him off the lead so he can start to investigate if he feels like it. Do not ask him to train around other dogs until he feels a lot more confident in their presence. I see no reason at all why he could not attend a shoot.  (Read more on socialising dogs here.)