Puppies are heartwarming and exciting explosions of joy in fuzzy packages, but they also carry with them a hefty weight of responsibility. When you bring home a puppy, you bring home the need to be on top of potty needs and training, vaccination schedules, a solid plan for training, and socialization to ensure proper behavior in the dog the puppy will grow into. There is a time frame in a puppy’s life where socialization is especially important, but even adult dogs who have missed out on this can be socialized. So how do you socialize your dog? Either way, it takes patience, persistence, a willingness to keep things fun, and an acceptance to working in many brief efforts to properly socialize a puppy or an adult dog.
When you socialize a puppy, you take the initial step on the journey that will result in rearing a dog that is well-behaved. A young puppy enters a critical development period around the time it is also old enough to find a new home. During that development time, when the young pup is taken and exposed to a variety of new places, people, animals, and circumstances in a manner that is positive, the dog it will grow into will likely be one that is calm and accepting.
Understanding Why to Socialize Your Puppy
The most dangerous dogs are fearful and aggressive. Fearful dogs are unpredictable. They might bite or flee, and, because they are uncertain themselves of what to do, it is hard to predict the choice they will make. Socialized dogs, or dogs who have been socialized as puppies, are safer to be around. Properly socialized pups are far less likely to grow into behavior problems while they age. A socialized dog can face new experiences with confidence. A dog who was not socialized does not tend to react well to new things.
The Shotgun Approach to Socialization
Rather than using a tight focus on one task, then another, a shotgun approach will fill up your and your pup’s time with new adventures in apparently unrelated areas. Carry your young dog or use a carrier to introduce the young dog to as many new people, another dog, new places, and new experiences that you can think of that your puppy will experience later in life. The reason for carrying or using a carrier is to prevent your as-yet partially vaccinated young dog from encountering highly infectious diseases such as distemper and canine influenza. Be cautious letting your puppy set a paw to any ground that isn’t your home or yard or those of friends with only vaccinated dogs. Maintaining variety in your puppy’s life will give the future dog a grounding of great diversity. Your dog will be comfortable and more predictable in more circumstances.
As with all behaviors, the earlier you begin teaching your puppy to react properly in new situations, the easier the task will be. By starting young, you accomplish three things. You make your job earlier, first. Second, you prepare your pup for a life of adventures with other dogs and people rather than frightening new experiences. Finally, you get the idea in the puppy’s head far faster than you would in an adult dog’s head.
Puppies do their best learning when the training is maintained as positive in tone and based on rewards, whether those rewards are toy-based or food-based. As with all training, patience is key. Remember to keep reinforcing polite and appropriate behavior from a puppy on a consistent basis.
Early sessions should be short for the puppy’s sake. Training can grow to be overwhelming to a young puppy. Do not let the new circumstances be completely overwhelming. Try meeting one new dog at a time, rather than a whole puppy-socialization class’s worth. Introduce the puppy to riding in a quieter car before hopping into the cab of a big rumbling truck. Take things slowly, keep them low in tone, and let the puppy acclimate.
Seek Help to Socialize
Solicit dog training assistance from family and friends, pet-sitters or walkers, co-workers, and neighbors, or other people of your acquaintance. This familiarizes your young dog with a slew of new dogs and people as well as sights and sounds. Encourage them to wear whatever they are most comfortable in because your puppy needs to get used to people showing up in different fashions, as well. Types of hair and facial hair, glasses and no glasses, different types of coats and pants that might flap or drag, and other accessories that will be new to the pup should be an experience to seek out.
Keep Socialization Slow
Over-socialization is possible with puppies. That is what happens when a young dog is exposed to too much over too brief a time. If you want to avoid this, start small. Invite a single friend over, letting the puppy take as much time as desired to get to know your friend. After several successes, invite multiple friends over. Respectfully and gratefully instruct people on how to approach your puppy. That is the traditional means of allowing hands to be sniffed and only petting spots on the dog’s body that it is comfortable with at first.
No matter how well they are getting along, puppies should not meet the other and then be left unsupervised. You need to be watching just in case an accident or a moment of over-exuberance occurs. Know your puppy’s cues, behaviors, and body language.
Puppy Socialization Period
When you get your puppy, you likely have about six weeks left of the puppy’s ideal time for socialization remaining to get busy. If you adopt an older puppy, you will have still less time. Most experts hold that young dog socialization works at its best when puppies are several weeks old until they reach about three months of age.
Consider Puppy Classes
In a puppy class for early training or sheer socialization, the setting is set for youngsters to meet together safely. Ensure that the professional trainer cleans with appropriate formulas and disallows any puppy that has signs of being sick. This controlled environment is safer than a dog park for your pup to experience other dogs because most trainers call for vaccination records to be safe.
Puppy Socialization Checklist
A puppy socialization checklist can be basic or incredibly detailed. Make sure you cover at least general categories if not specific examples.
This category involves meeting all sorts of people. Try to include people of different sizes, ages, and races. Make note of different pitches of voice people have and expose your dog to those differences as well.
Accessories can throw a dog off. Some dogs will be fearful of women with hats or men with beards if they have not seen much of the type before. Sunglasses are another accessory that can cause young dogs dismay.
Take your puppy to different locations. This includes the office, the veterinarian’s clinic, and the pet food store. Most people are delighted to see a puppy, so you should not have much trouble gaining permission.
Accepting Routine Care
Handle your puppy’s feet often and in rewarding ways. This will make claw trimming a much simpler prospect down the road. Brush regularly, comb, trim a little; all these activities will make it easier to groom your pet.
If you do not want your dog going berserk at the doorbell’s ring, introduce the sound as one that requires no great fuss. Sirens, fireworks, and thunder can also throw dogs into a state of chaos. Prepare them as young puppies to remain calm.
Puppies should be accustomed to traffic fairly young. Walking next to traffic with a fearful dog is not fun. Dogs should also grow accustomed to riding in vehicles.
Other dogs, cats, birds, and squirrels all number into this category of animals to expose your dog to. If you live on a farm, there are likely even more animals to introduce your puppy to, such as goats or sheep, cows, pigs, and horses. A well-rounded farm dog will know them all. A dog park is good for older puppies who are vaccinated to meet a variety.
Get your dog accustomed to moving next to strollers and wheelchairs as well as up and down escalators. If you will be biking or bikejoring with your dog, get the young dog used to a bicycle as well. Teach the puppy to respect, but not to fear, wheels.
Keeping Your Socializing Puppy Safe
Socializing is part of keeping your young dog safe. It can even be lifesaving. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior says issues of behavior, rather than infectious diseases, are the top cause of death for those dogs younger than three years old. A few shots on schedule can be easier to perform than to consistently train your pup, but both are necessary for a young dog’s wellbeing. More specifically, use a leash when exploring new scenes and keep your unvaccinated puppy away from areas visited by other animals.
Socializing an Adult Dog
While socializing puppies can be as simple as exposing them to as many sights, scents, and sounds of the world as possible, adult dogs need a bit more help than to simply absorb new experiences and merge them into part of a daily life experience. An older dog can be more challenging, particularly when size and breed come into play.
Train Yourself to Observe
Learning about your older dog is the most vital foundation of socialization training. By watching, learn what makes your dog happy, sad, angry, or scared. Watch the dog’s body language. Also, pay attention to your own reactions when your dog’s behavior is a certain way.
Enroll in a Dog Training Course
Working with professionals can be helpful in many ways. A dog trainer does teach you to communicate better with your dog but is also there to support you and answer your questions. Dog trainers will help you to problem-solve.
Know When to Ignore
When your older dog is afraid of something, regardless of what that thing is, let your dog hide. Do not pursue, seek to comfort, or try to haul the dog from the hiding spot. Learn to ignore your dog so that you can better give cues that the dog will understand. If you are consoling, then there must be a reason to console, a dog’s way of thinking. Remain calm.
Hang Onto Relaxation When it Comes To Adult Dogs
Relax once this process of terror is over. Act as though nothing happened. Outwait your older dog. Continue to ignore the fearful behavior. Move on with your day. Hang out with a television show or a good book. Remember that calm environments can create calm dogs.
Keep Up the Fun Aspect
Many dogs are much like children; if the activity is not fun, they are not into it. So keep socialization fun in every respect. Have great treats and toys along with positive reinforcement with which to reward or lure. Give your older dog a chance to prove its own confidence. Ask others to give one of the treats you provide.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I socialize my dog with other dogs?
If your dog does not like to meet other dogs face to face, try flipping one of them around at a time while on a leash. Let sniffs be traded as dogs do and then allow them to turn with this new knowledge of each other.
How long does it take to socialize a dog?
Give the process, at the very least, a month. Remember that each dog is different, each trainer is different, and no two sets of circumstances are identical, however.
How do I make my dog more friendly?
Make the world rain treats. Your dog’s favorite treat should be available to everyone from the paper delivery person to the neighbor down the street to the cousin who visits once a year. Use every excuse for others to give your dog treats with a positive voice.
Why is my dog aggressive towards other dogs?
Speak with a specific trainer about your dog’s history to get at the root cause of aggression toward other dogs. Perhaps the reason is fear, perhaps the dog is intact and in that part of their mating cycle, perhaps your dog was attacked once and remembers the incident.
How to socialize an older dog:
Be patient, be persistent, and be fun when socializing with an older dog. Try a class or a consultation with a trainer if you have trouble.