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I have taken it upon myself to give my mother's recently adopted rescue dog a more fulfilling life than what his previous owners probably did. He is an estimated 3 yr german shepherd mix. After spending his first 6 weeks with us pre-socializing with the 2 dogs we have at home, I cautiously brought him to a dog park, which was my first time as well. I introduced him outside the gates and talked to the people there for a bit trying to pick up some ins and outs of.. dog... park..ing. I ended up bringing him inside while still having him on the lead. He did alright, growled a bit and I had to kind of full on embrace him a few times. It was his first time and he behaved pretty expected.

Today I brought him there for a second time and it started off a little ruff. People suggested that him being on the leash was likely a contributing factor.. which makes sense to me but I still wasn't comfortable with being responsible for a dog that I don't know 100% what he's capable of. I ended up going to the neighboring empty little dog section with a nice man and his dog who helped ease my dog into it. After letting him interact with the dogs through the gate I decided to give it a shot and let him in with the other dogs without his leash. Admittedly, it felt a bit premature. He did really well for about an hour. I was talking to someone about how well he was acting when I let my guard down. I turned around to see him shaking a little dog around in a violent manner. I was pretty mortified and felt a little insecure about how to act afterward.

I was asking around for advice and told the owners of the little dog that I would simply not bring him if that was their wish. They and many others mostly just suggested I bring him at a time with fewer dogs.

After they left a few people tried to tell me that people shouldn't be bringing little dogs in with the big ones, but it seemed that people regularly do it so I don't think that's really a great excuse and am not really willing to share much blame.

I'm not really sure what people were thinking but they reassured me I was still welcome. Sometimes people are just polite though, and I don't want to cause people to not come.

On a side note, right before I brought the rescue dog there I tested the waters with my 10 year old golden retriever. He's the nicest dog in the world and he pretty much got gangraped by every dog there, male / female and poodles. (Pardon the language, but it was pretty ridiculous, even for the dog park regulars) I tried my best to take it all in stride, but it was pretty awkward at times. That's only relevant, because I got the feeling that regular park goers were pretty understanding that occasionally dogs are going to act like dogs.

Not trying to obsess over people's thoughts, but am not a fan of being "that guy" either. Any thoughts or advice? Tell me to it straight internet.
 

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Telling it to you straight... I'm not a fan of dog parks. You can't predict who goes there. The average owner is not versed in subtle canine body language. Most dogs, even very social ones, don't like ALL dogs. Dogs learn to be pushy. Dogs are mobbed at the gate. Dogs learn to fixate on other dogs....

I prefer well-matched play groups with dogs of known history and sociability.

Just remember, socialization is all about teaching your dog what is safe and unsafe, NOT make a dog 'love other dogs'. Training is all about teaching your dog what is appropriate and inappropriate. Dog parks are about letting dogs of all natures, backgrounds, and inhibitions mingle. I know more than one dog (including my own) who has been ruined by the dog park. I truly mean "ruined". As in, he probably would be more social and appropriate with dogs in the ten plus years I've had him if I hadn't thrown him in to rough and tumble and learn inappropriate behaviors at the dog park.
 

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Think about socialization this way...

Let's say I'm an introvert. Due to genetics, upbringing, whatever... I will always be an introvert. But I do enjoy people and social events in certain situations. I've learned to speak well publicly and hold a good conversation. I am allowed to choose who my friends are, and to accept or decline invitations to hang out as I please. I will always be an introvert but I can function well around people and feel pretty comfortable about social situations, even if I don't enjoy them.

Let's say I'm an introvert and someone has decided I "need to be more outgoing." I'm forced to go to loud and boisterous parties. I'm forced to interact with people I don't enjoy and talk about things I don't care for. Now I hate social situations, I am jaded about certain types of people, and I violently tell people to back off when my personal space is invaded.

Society has an expectation that dogs 'must be good' with other dogs. Pretty nonsensical. Dogs exist on a range of aloof to social due to genetics. Forcing a dog that is selective, shy, afraid, or aloof to interact with all dogs all the time, will teach them to dislike dogs and react defensively to ward them off.
 

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Dog parks aren't for every dog, and they are not a place to socialize a poorly socialized dog. Your dog may not even enjoy being around other strange dogs.

If you wish for better socialization, just work on taking the dog around the neighborhood, first. Doesn't have to interact with anybody or anything, just a stroll. You can work your way up to strolls through parks with lots of people in them (no off-leash dog scenarios). Take your dog, or have your mother take the dog, to obedience school where all dogs are controlled and on leash. If the dog is okay with it, you might try playdates with other dogs who are known and appropriate. There are many other ways to socialize a dog that don't require the dog to interact with anybody or any dog at all, and that is perfectly fine.
 

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Read what Canyx said. Read it again and again.

I don't even allow social known groups with my dogs. In fact, I don't let my three dogs together to play ever. Two are bitches and I see a bitch fight brewing so nope to them. The other is a young male and I need his focus on me.
 

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I like the analogies. I just went through a similar issue with my rescue, Mikee. He was in the Rescue, until I adopted him at 1.5yo. He had minimal exposure and socialization. It took me 2 months of patiently walking him twice a day, to teach him to walk gently on a loose leash. It took me a year of taking him an average of once a day, to PetsMart, Home Depot, Lowe's, or Tractor Supply, to get him to enjoy walking around some people and some dogs. The nice thing about PetsMart is that I could go during the week when there were few dogs, or during the weekend with more dogs, some not as predictable.

I think the best experiences were weekly or daily playdates with one neighborhood dog in a fenced area. Some dogs he liked playing with, some liked playing with him more that he liked playing with them (different play styles), and some either didn't interact or didn't play. After 2 years, Mikee still has a way to go. He's much calmer and predictable, but if certain dogs bark at him, he may bark back, getting very excited. ON the other hand, he no longer has the need to bark at all dogs and all people. And, I think the selected individual socialization may help you, too.
 

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A dog that would grab and shake another dog is not dog park material, period.

I don't like the "Thunderdome" style parks, either. Too many people think that socialization = throwing your dog in with a bunch of others and letting them work things out, and that's a recipe for disaster. I like the idea of small playgroups with known, similarly-sized dogs.
 
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