Socialisation is one of the most important components of canine life, and dogs are highly social pack animals that do not thrive in isolation or without the regular company of their own kind. This means that introducing your dog to others out on walks, going to parks where dogs and owners congregate and generally, making efforts to enable your dog to display their natural behaviours and play with others is very important.
However, just as communication with other people can cause us as humans to pick up potential problems and illnesses such as coughs and colds and even issues like head lice and other nasties, so too does contact with other dogs come with potential risks of its own – although these can often be mitigated with vigilance on the part of the owner.
Being aware of the most common potential hazards that can affect your dog when socialising is a good idea for all dog owners, as this allows you to avoid many potential problems and also, recognise issues that may arise quickly.
In this article, we will examine six potential hazards that your dog may face when socialising with others, and how to reduce the potential risks. Read on to learn more.
One of the most obvious potential hazards that can affect dogs when they mix with others is the transmission of fleas, which will easily make the jump from one host to another as dogs come into contact with each other via play.
Fleas on your dog can quickly infest your house and become challenging to fully eradicate, and left unchecked, can cause your dog to develop a hypersensitivity to flea bites, which can lead to extreme localised reactions on your dog’s skin every time a flea bites them.
Additionally, ear mites and other forms of mites that can affect dogs also pass very easily from one dog to another in the park or while playing, which can be hard to spot and means you should be vigilant about potential warnings such as your dog scratching their ears a lot.
Always ensure that your dog is protected from fleas and ticks that they might pick up from other dogs or while playing, and stay alert to the warning signs of mite infestations.
Worms can also be passed from direct dog-to-dog contact while playing and socialising, but the ground itself can also serve as a host for various species of intestinal worms that your dog can pick up on their paws simply from walking in such areas.
Heavily trafficked areas of public land and dog parks and other areas where dogs congregate and socialise may have worm larvae within the very soil itself, as when a dog with worms poops, the poop can infect the land. This is why picking up after your own dog is so important, and also, why you should avoid walking your own dog in areas where other owners are not so conscientious.
No dog should go out to play with others or come into contact with other dogs without the benefits of vaccination against all of the core transmissible canine health conditions that pose a serious threat to dogs’ health.
Ensuring that your dog’s vaccinations and boosters are all up to date can help to prevent a range of acute and serious transmissible diseases, but even so, there are certain viral conditions that dogs can transmit to each other in play including wart or papilloma viruses, and a range of other nasties too.
If your dog isn’t in excellent health and protected by vaccinations, try to keep them away from other unknown dogs until they are.
There is no point in trying to wrap your dog in cotton wool and treat them as if they are so delicate that they are unable to engage in meaningful play with other dogs, although if your dog is very small, finely built or otherwise more vulnerable than others, you will of course want to be more speculative.
However, playing with other dogs and of course, simply playing full stop can occasionally lead to an accident or bump that might hurt your dog, and so it is important to supervise play and recall your dog if they are going a little overboard, or if another dog is getting a bit too pushy and dominant.
If there is another dog in the dog park that is large and very boisterous with smaller dogs, or any dog that is borderline aggressive or poorly supervised, remove your own dog and go back later, or try somewhere else.
You should always take water for your dog to drink when out with you for walks and socialisation, and not rely upon being able to find a source of water while out.
Drinking from puddles, streams, canals and rivers is not a good idea due to the potential nasties that lurk in open water sources, from harmful viruses and bacteria to algae blooms that can actually poison your dog, and that might not be obvious to the naked eye.
Additionally, allowing your dog to drink from a communal water bowl means that they are exposed to potential risks from other dogs that have used the bowl first, so take your own bowl along too.
Finally, overheating is a serious risk to the health of all dogs during the summer, particularly when combined with vigorous play and exercise in the company of others. Always be vigilant about your dog’s activity levels and how this matches the ambient temperature, and offer your dog water and chances to cool down regularly.
Brachycephalic dog breeds like the French bulldog are particularly vulnerable to heatstroke and overheating during the hotter months of the year, so take special care with dogs of this type.