Pet owners want their dogs to be well-adjusted, social creatures that can handle any situation. The reality is that many dogs, especially older pets, will struggle with socialization. Dogs are lovable companions that deserve to be understood, whether within the comfort of their own home or venturing into unknown territory.
Socializing your dog is a nuanced process, and is different for every animal. We’re going to take a quick look at the basics of socializing puppies and older dogs, and give a nod to training dogs we call “social leaders.”
Animal behaviorists generally agree that the first three months of a puppy’s life are vital to the socialization process. While there is concern that puppies are more susceptible to various illnesses at a young age, the importance of socializing your pet needs to be considered.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior states that puppies should be safely introduced to other dogs –even before they are fully vaccinated. How does an owner know how to carry out such a feat? It starts with understanding why it’s important to socialize at a young age.
Improper socialization can result in numerous behavior issues, including avoidance and aggression. These two traits are the primary reason dogs are turned over to shelters, and are the number one cause of death for dogs under the age of three. For these reasons, it’s important to understand how to properly socialize your puppy.
Start by playing with your pet from the moment you meet him. Touching, stimulating, and talking to your dog helps them become accustomed to people and familiar with human interaction. Reach out to a friend who has a trustworthy, vaccinated, mild tempered pet and set up supervised “play dates” to begin introducing your dog to new animals. Avoid dog parks and trips to the pet store until your dog is fully vaccinated, and check into early socialization classes to determine when your pet can begin group training.
Socializing an adult dog is tricky business. First of all, not every adult dog will be a social butterfly. Rescues in particular have a difficult time understanding pet etiquette, and need to be handled with love and caution.
The primary expectation for an adult pet should be good behavior, not popularity. On average, socially mature dogs can be weary of new friends. When using this logic for a rescue that may have had trauma in the past, this weary mentality can intensify.
Keep clear goals in mind. Begin by training your dog to behave calmly in public, and exercise good behavior on a leash. Bring along a pocket full of very delicious treats to reward your pet for keeping their cool around other animals. Instruct them to sit while another pet passes by, and reward them for staying place. Once your dog is comfortable in a public setting, allow them to meet a trusted friend as an introductory exercise. KEEP IN MIND that dogs are naturally dominant, and will often try to establish dominance when meeting other canines. If you’re at all hesitant about socializing your pet, it is strongly recommended to seek professional training. Which brings us to…
Using Social Leaders:
At It’s A Dog’s World K-9 Academy we have a staff of experienced trainers who have worked with dogs of all personality types. Our staff includes four-legged professionals, like Radar and Ruger pictured above. Social leaders like these two are used to help socialize other dogs that are fearful or rough around the edges. Social leaders are neutral in their behavior, and will not react negatively or in a dominant fashion if the dog in training begins to spook. They help shy dogs come out of their shell, and dominant dogs understand that they can have friends.
If you’re struggling to socialize your pet, please contact us! An anti-social dog can become fearful and aggressive towards other dogs and even people. Contact us today for a free consultation and begin on your journey of socialization.