One of the best times to start socializing your dog and getting them used to different people, places, sounds, smells, and animals is when they are still a puppy; between 7 weeks and 4 months is ideal. However, even if you adopt an adolescent or older dog, they can still be socialized as well and learn how to behave more appropriately in public. It’s all a matter of how you approach the situation and reinforce positive behavior.
Introducing Your Puppy to New Environments
To puppies, almost everything they encounter is new and can be either exciting or frightening. You want to try to keep interactions as positive as possible so they don’t learn to fear when the doorbell rings or when another dog comes near.
- Reward positive behaviors with a small treat and redirect unwanted behaviors.
- Avoid introducing a lot of new people at once. Meet with one or two people at a time and keep things calm and friendly. Encourage children to be gentle and not get the puppy too worked up or be too aggressive.
- Let your puppy hear all different noises around your home and neighborhood so they become less anxious and fearful.
- Handle them with care, avoiding yanking on their leash, pinning them down, or roughing them up too much. Gently pet different parts of their body from their head to their feet so they get used to being handled.
Socializing an Older Dog
Working with an older dog can take a little more planning and time. They may already have some learned fears. Get to know your dog and what makes them excited, anxious, aggressive, or fearful so you’re not caught off guard.
- Take your dog on regular walks around the neighborhood so they get used to seeing other people. Steer clear at first and then slowly get closer to others as your dog becomes more comfortable.
- Let your dog sniff out others and see them before they try to pet him or her. If you’re fearful of your dog trying to bite, use a muzzle until they become more socialized.
- Stay relaxed, and just like with a puppy, reward them with small treats for positive behavior and interactions.
Interacting with Other Dogs
It’s important to not only socialize your dog with other people, but with other dogs as well. If you want them to be able to enjoy some time at doggie daycare, the dog park, or just out in the community, it helps if they’re comfortable around other dogs.
- Let your dog observe other dogs at the dog park from outside the fence to see how they react. Reward friendly interactions along the fence with a treat, and move further back if your dog shows aggression.
- Keep your dog on a short leash at first, especially around other dogs. If your dog starts barking, jumping, or pulling, distract them with a toy, command, or gentle touch.
- Start by interacting with dogs of a similar size or smaller so your dog does not feel threatened or overwhelmed.
If you’re unsure of what you’re doing on your own, signing your dog up for a training or behavior class can help as well. A professional trainer will work with you on how to teach your dog commands and promote positive interactions with people and other animals. Once your dog is ready, sign them up for doggie daycare so they continue working on their social skills and enjoy playing with other dogs. Let the staff know about any concerns you may have, or if your dog needs to be in a smaller group. Lake Wylie Pet Resort offers doggie daycare as well as boarding to provide your pet with the best care possible in a safe environment. Contact us today to learn more!