To be socially normal, your Golden puppy must play regularly with other puppies and adult dogs. Otherwise, not only won't he be very playful with other dogs as an adult, he might even be aggressive toward them as well. Once the window for socialization closes at around the eighteenth week, you can't open it again. You can do remedial training to help manage any problems, but your Golden will have lost a big opportunity to learn how to communicate and play with other dogs.
The key to preventing this from being a problem is to get your puppy around other puppies and adult dogs of all breeds, sizes, and shapes. Playing with other dogs is not just for fun. The more you allow your Golden Retriever to play with other dogs, the more social he will be.
Wrestling and play-fighting teach puppies a very critical skill called bite inhibition. Bite inhibition is the limiting of the force of a dog's jaws, which prevents injury to the person or animal being bitten. By practicing mouthing and nipping on other dogs, a puppy learns how to inhibit the force of his bite, thus preventing any real injury from occurring.
Bite inhibition must be learned during the puppy stage. You can help teach this skill by yelling “Ouch!” and leaving the room when your Golden puppy bites, but this lesson is best taught by other dogs. Dogs that have bite inhibition can safely be around people and other dogs. Even if they bite out of fear or if they are in pain, they will not cause significant damage.
It is imperative that you make sure that your Golden Retriever plays with other dogs on a regular basis throughout his life. This is how he learns to inhibit his bite and also to maintain his social skills.
On the other hand, dogs without bite inhibition are like a time bomb. The reason for this is that they never learned to inhibit their bite through play with other dogs. Typically, these pups do very little nipping and biting as puppies, and the little that they do is discouraged. Instead of learning to change the pressure in their jaws, they skip this step altogether. This at first seems like a good thing, since everyone hates those needle-sharp puppy bites. But without this kind of interaction with other dogs, these pups have no idea of the power in their jaws. These dogs may have been socialized to lots of people and never show fearfulness or aggression. Still, any dog that becomes frightened or hurt is likely to bite. If this happens, they could cause serious injury requiring medical attention.
Play Dates and Doggie Day Care
If you work full time or live in a neighborhood with very few other dog owners, you can employ a dog walker or doggie day-care provider to help ensure that your dog is getting enough time with other dogs. If your dog doesn't get regular off-leash play with other dogs, he will not maintain his good social skills. Dogs are similar to people in this respect. Just as we can get a little cranky if we don't get out much, dogs can lose their ability to communicate effectively if they don't get to practice their skills.
If you do live in a neighborhood where there are other dogs (or you have friends with dogs), by all means make play dates. Let the dogs mix it up as often as possible. It's important to pay attention to other dog's play styles when you are getting together on a regular basis. If there is a dog in the group that tends to get everyone else riled up and overexcited, break up the play. Direct the dogs into another activity before letting them go back to their play.
When searching for a doggie day-care facility, make sure you visit and ask questions about how the place is run. Dogs should play in small groups (of no more than eight to twelve). Multiple staff members should be on hand to redirect inappropriate behavior or rearrange a group in which one dog is bullying the rest.
The ability to break away from play and respond to you is a crucial element of your Golden's self control. This doesn't mean you must constantly interfere and interrupt his playtime. But if he gets rowdy, you should be able to call him away from the other dogs. This will ensure that your Golden does not learn he can get out of control and stay that way.