From the time we bring our dog home, either puppy, or adult, our first instinct is to go bring it everywhere and show all of our friends! But why?
We are living in a society right now where dogs are life, and the word “dog” is on 99% of the things you find at Target. You can bring your dog almost everywhere (heck, I take Cash everywhere– you can read about it here), so it’s almost automatic to assume that all dogs are friendly and that socialization means let everyone say hello- both humans and dogs.
Unfortunately I’ve learned that over socializing is a thing, and forcing socialization isn’t a good thing. In fact Cash has some weird leash aggression issues and I 100% blame myself.
It’s ok to tell people “NO”
When it’s time to socialize your Great Dane or your dog, you want to get them the socialization that they need but they also are still looking to you for guidance. If they are uncomfortable, or seem stressed, you can tell strangers “no, thank you”, or “he’s nervous, please don’t approach”.
Heck, your Great Dane could be happy as a clam and still looking to you for guidance so I will say “not today” when people ask to pet Cash, just because I want him to know that I am in control and the strangers are not.
This goes for both humans and dogs. I think where I failed was letting every single dog interact with Cash as a puppy. I was the person who had an unruly Great Dane and gave a shout of “oh hes friendly!” as he drug me across the room to meet another dog. Ugh, gross.
I have come so far from that. Cash may have been snapped at, or snarled at, or perhaps was put into too many situations with other dogs where he felt that I wasn’t in control or respecting his boundaries.
You can have a super happy, dog friendly dog, but I think that’s where it’s more important to keep in control. When others ask to have their dog meet your Great Dane (everyone wants their dog to meet a huge dog), to just say “no thank you, not today”. Just to remind your dog that you have his back and are in charge.
Watching Dog Cues
Cash now has extreme leash aggression with other dogs that aren’t his friends, so I have to be “on” at all times while out and about. Do I still take him out? Absolutely, I read his cues and manage him in a way that is positive for everyone and always try to leave on a high note.
What are some signs to watch for?
Dogs will stand tall and stiffen up when they are alerted to something that makes them uncomfortable. Often times puff their chests out a bit, with their head held high. This can also come with hackles being raised. Great Danes have shorter hair so it can be harder to see, but definitely worth watching for.
Ears can tell you soooo much about your dogs thought process. I often ask people if their dogs gave them any warning sign and they say no, I am pretty sure an ear twitch was given but it went unnoticed. A slight ear pin back shows that they are uncomfortable with a situation. Sometimes the ears will go straight back, sometimes the ears will “flick” or “twitch” before a snarl or lunge.
This can often be hard for us to see because we usually have our dogs to our side and don’t see their hard stare or eye contact with another dog or human. However, this could also happen inside your home if you have a reactive dog to visitors, etc. If you can break that hard stare the moment you notice it, that will be key.
The way a dog is feeling is often expressed through it’s tail as well. I haven’t been able to fully identify Cash’s tail wags for when he is uncomfortable but perhaps your Great Dane or your dog is more expressive in that way. A tucked tail is the most obvious that they are uncomfortable and it’s up to you to help them through the situation while keeping it positive.
More obvious, Lips Curls, Growls, Lunges
If your dog is expressing himself to this extent, it’s going to be imperative that you read these cues and deescalate the situation ASAP.
Cash is a lunger, but he has all of the other signs before he actually lunges so I have 3 cues to watch for in about a split second to stop him from lunging.
You never want to punish a lip curl or a growl because they are giving you a warning of being uncomfortable but you do want to let them know that you heard them and can help.
Put Your Dog Away, Keep Guests to a Minimum
If you have a Great Dane that you just don’t know enough about, please, please just put them away when visitors come over. At least until you get to know how they will respond to strangers.
I see so many bite cases within the Great Dane Rescue of MN and WI and the Great Dane Sanctuary, where people could have kept their dog if they would have paid closer attention, or just put their dogs away while guests came over.
It’s ok to use a crate, or have a room for the dog to go and decompress from visitors. So many people feel “bad for the dog” but you could be saving it’s life.
If you are someone who has a reactive dog and already know it, you can simply ask to have a quieter home, recommend friends houses instead of yours, ask your kids to play at their friends home instead of yours, use baby gates to keep dogs and guests separate.
Whatever you have to do to keep your dog and your guests or strangers in public safe, please do it.
Your dog deserves to trust that you’ll have his back, no matter what. We all know that dogs will always have ours, the least we can do is return the favor.