Dog Socialisation

How do dogs learn their doggy manners?

Out walking today and a gorgeous young Cocker Spaniel came galumphing over, followed swiftly by his puffing owner lol. She apologised profusely and explained that recall was proving to be a challenge…. anyway, we chatted for a bit and it turns out that her pup is 5 months old. He is – not unusually – very keen on other dogs but he is a classic example of keenness exceeding manners.

There is no question of his good intentions. His face radiates good nature and smiles and his whole demeanour is one of "Oh you look fun! Let’s play!!" but his idea of playing is to leap upon the other dog, in a clumsy, scrambly way and Boo didn’t like it one bit. She is all for playing, but naturally enough she objects to being climbed upon. So she growled at him and air-snapped. At which he immediately threw himself down on his back. So she wandered off, satisfied she’d made her point. So he immediately got up and jumped on her again. So she did the same. This happened a couple of times and then he did it again, but this time when he was on his back she got hold of his neck and gave a couple of muffled "Rowwwwwwwrrr"s while he was down there. Then she let go and came over to me again. Sensing she had had enough, I shooed him away gently because even after the telling-off she’d given him, it was clear that he was all for coming back for more!

I said to his owner that Boo had had enough and she was fine – she put her pup onlead (Boo was lying beside me) and we chatted for a few more minutes before going our separate ways.

But how should she handle this habit of his? When Boo was little, and other-dog obsessed, she never actually climbed on others, so never really got "told off" as such. I’d say her social skills with other dogs are pretty good. But I imagine that if he makes a habit of climbing on other dogs, then he’s going to get told off quite a lot…. and this presumably could make him aggressive/fearful of other dogs if it carries on? Or will he at some point learn that it is his actions which are getting him duffed up?

I did advise her to carry treats/toys with her and make herself as fun as possible, to improve recall and make other dogs less desirable, but keeping him away from other dogs won’t actually improve the way he interacts when he DOES meet them, will it? And as he gets bigger, presumably other dogs will stop giving him "puppy licence"?

Where/how do you strike the balance between allowing dog/dog interaction so that the youngster learns his doggy manners, and keeping everyone safe and not annoyed?

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