Our dogs love us. We get them as puppies, we feed them, we love them and they, in return, love us back unconditionally. But we assume that, because our dog is so loving towards us and was born into a litter of six puppies etc, that they will automatically love other dogs. This is almost never the case. In fact, in some instances it can be the complete opposite.
Socialisation encourages our dogs to be dogs, and when we talk about them being a dog, we mean in the sense of their behaviour. Dogs, like us as humans, must learn early on how to act in social situations, what's acceptable behaviour and what isn't.
Socialisation in the correct manner is extremely important for your dog going forward - a bad early experience can really restrict your dog's ability to interact with other dogs in a positive and enjoyable way in the future. Like everything with dog's, socialisation should always start out slowly and in a controlled environment. Socialising a new puppy or dog should be done one-on-one initially, on lead control and with lots of treats. It is important the dog understands that meeting a new dog is a positive thing. This controlled socialisation applies to all dogs regardless of personality. Dog parks, for instance, are not controlled and are better suited to dogs that have good off-lead control and have been properly socialised prior. Puppy classes will always give them a good dose of initial socialisation at an early age. Day Cares are a great option when thinking about group play, as there is someone there to mediate, control the tempo and reassure the dogs. It also means your dog will meet and interact with dogs, other than family and friends' pets, which really increases their socialisation training.
Understanding body language is important when socialising your pet. You can find diagrams or videos on the internet or through your local vet or dog trainers showing you different signs of body language that can be warning triggers for unwanted behaviour. If these are not observed correctly, it can lead to potential issues in a play environment.
A properly socialised dog has so many more benefits to them and their owners. Dogs being able to take part in group play are stimulated physically and mentally to a level we just can't get with normal walks and play time. Life as an owner also improves as walks, going to beaches or parks become easier and less stressful! But, most of all, you get to enjoy watching your dog playing and interacting with other dogs safely and happily, as they were meant to.