Introducing your dog to people and other animals is an essential aspect of pet ownership. Socialization at an early age will help your dog feel less anxiety and remain calm when strangers approach them. This process prevents any unfortunate incidents in the future.
Whether you get an older rescue dog or a puppy, approach socialization with intention and patience. Here are six practical tips for socializing your dog.
Invest in Dog Training
Dog training is about more than learning how to sit and follow instructions; it’s also an opportunity to socialize and interact with other dogs and humans. According to thedogwizard.com, dogs require good physical and cognitive engagement to feel balanced and relaxed. Training can teach your dog how to cope when tension arises and that not everyone wants to meet them.
This experience is also an opportunity for pet owners to learn how to navigate situations with patience. Even if you consider yourself an old dog, you can still learn new tricks!
Understand Your Pet’s Roots
Before you engage your dog in socializing, it’s essential to understand their underlying genetics and background. Some breeds, like dalmatians, tend to be more energetic, whereas hounds and cavaliers tend to be calmer. These underlying characteristics provide insights into how your pet may behave in a stimulating situation. Of course, the breed isn’t everything; your dog undoubtedly has a unique personality.
If you’ve rescued a dog with an abusive background, it’s also integral to keep this trauma in mind when pursuing socialization. In this case, working with an experienced trainer who has experience in abused animals can help.
Walk in Public Areas
Daily walks offer several benefits to both you and your dog. In addition to the physical benefits of daily exercise, walking can boost your moods and provide cognitive stimulation. The trick is to take your dog to public areas where they’ll experience different people, animals, sounds, and smells.
If you live in a rural area, try to go to a dog park or busy sidewalk at least once per week. It’s also beneficial to change up the scenery and take your dog to new places— for example, walking on a beach or a forest trail.
Even if you don’t directly encounter other people or animals, this experience still plays an integral role in socialization. It shows your dog that they’ll be ok in unfamiliar situations and instill a feeling of positive curiosity.
Let Your Dog Take the Lead
When you introduce your dog to people and other animals, let them take the lead during the interaction. Don’t let people or pets approach your dog if they seem timid or standoffish. Ask the person to wait while you comfort your pet.
When your dog meets other dogs, it’s normal for them to circle each other, do some sniffing, and familiarize themselves with the animal. Try to refrain from pulling your dog back unless they start showing signs of aggression.
A part of letting your dog take the lead means understanding your pet’s body language. If your dog is cowering or has raised hackles, it’s time to leave the situation calmly. Keep in mind that tail wagging doesn’t always signify happiness; it could be a sign of anxiety or concern. Familiarize yourself with your dog’s body language and learn as you go.
Reward Your Dog’s Efforts
Finally, use plenty of positive reinforcement and treats when your dog successfully navigates a social interaction. Don’t punish your pet when the exchange doesn’t go well—just don’t reward their behavior.
Stay patient and keep trying, using expert guidance as needed to get your dog suitably socialized. The efforts are well worth the happy, trustworthy dog you get in return.