Why do I need to socialize my dog? Dogs are naturally fearful of new experiences. You need to introduce your dog to new experiences to teach them that they don’t need to fear them. Socializing can help prevent dog behavior problems.
Fear can lead to many dog behavior problems including aggression. If a dog feels trapped or forced they can become very aggressive. Never force your dog into a situation that they fear.
Socialization is not a one time thing. You will need to continue to socialize your dog throughout it’s lifetime. It is especially important if you move to a new unfamiliar home.
Before socializing your puppy in public places speak to your veterinarian about keeping your puppy free from diseases before they have received all of their shots.
Young puppies are not fearful of new experiences up to about 12 weeks of age. This is the best time to socialize your puppy, when they are not afraid of new experiences.
During this time you should expose your puppy to new people, places, things, and other animals. Experience many different situations with your puppy.
When your puppy gets upset, remove them from the situation. Remaining in the situation may bring more fear. Revisit the situation later, maybe after a walk when your puppy will be calmer.
If your puppy reacts negatively to a person, have the person sit down with their back to the puppy. Allow your puppy the space it needs to explore this person at their own pace. Don’t rush your puppy.
Before you start socializing your dog in public places, first you will need to make sure your dog is up to date on all of their shots. Their health comes first.
Second, you will need to teach your dog some basic commands, if you haven’t already, so you can have control of your dog. Practice these basic commands at home before trying to socialize your dog. It will be easier to socialize your dog if they have a bond and trust you.
Don’t try to socialize your dog or puppy in situations where you can’t be in control. In other words, don’t start by taking your dog to a festival. Take it slow and allow your dog to socialize at their own pace.
The first rule is to take it slow and don’t rush. Take your dog for a walk in your neighborhood. Walking allows your dog to release their energy, creating a calmer dog. Each time you walk your dog, go a little further. This way the first part of their walk is familiar to them.
If your dog shows bad behavior while socializing, immediately remove them from the situation, without punishment, and try again another time.
When your dog is showing good behavior, give them a treat and/or lots of praise to show them what you expect from them.
Have a Friend Visit
Ask a friend or family member that has a dog to visit your home. Allow your dog to get to know this person without their dog.
If your dog is shy, have your friend or family member ignore your dog, especially eye contact. Most dogs will be curious when you interact with the other person. Given time, most dogs will come closer to sniff out the situation.
If the visit goes well, next time they visit have them bring their dog with them. Allow the dogs to have some distance between them when they meet. Both dogs should remain relaxed at this time. If either dog becomes tense, separate the dogs while you remain calm.
Go For a Visit
If you dog reacts well during the visit with the other dog, consider taking them to visit the friend or family members home. Allow your dog to begin it’s visit without the friend or family members dog present. If your dog adjusts nicely to the new environment, allow the dogs to meet again.
Again, allow some distance between the dogs if needed, both dogs need to remain calm. If your dog backs away from the other dog, give your dog the distance they need. If your dog wants to go closer, allow that also. Separate the dogs if either becomes tense.
Take an Obedience Class
You can take your dog to an obedience class. This will give your dog a chance to socialize with other dogs and people. Talk to the trainer before your first class and they will be able to help you introduce your dog to the other dogs and their owners.
The most important thing you can do is to be patient and calm. Allow your dog all the time it needs to overcome it’s fears. Never force your dog into a situation that they are fearful of.
You can take your dog to a dog park, but don’t go inside the park. Allow your dog to go to the fence if they want to. Take your dog’s lead as to how close they want to go to the fence.
If they are afraid, allow them the time they need to overcome this fear. Given time, most dogs will start to move closer with curiosity. If your dog becomes aggressive, move back away from the fence. Slowly move closer if your dog remains calm.
Eventually you will move inside the fence, when your dog is ready. Choose a dog park where the owners actually watch their dogs. Some dog parks will have owners that let their dogs in and then ignore them, allowing for bad behavior. This is not what you want. You want your dog to be around other dogs with good behavior.
Consider professional help
You should consider a professional dog behavioral specialist, if you are having trouble training or socializing your dog. A professional will be able to help you and your dog. They can teach you what to do to change your dog’s behavior, in a good way where you dog can react with a positive response.
Relax and Have Fun
Your dog should enjoy the socialization if done correctly. Never force your dog to socialize as this could create bigger problems and bad behavior. If your dog becomes stressed or agitated, leave the situation immediately. Take it slow and allow your dog the time they need to overcome their fears.
Feel free to leave a comment or share a story about your dog. The information on this website is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian, dog trainer, or dog behavioral specialist.