How to Socialize your Puppy!
How to Socialize Your Dog
Socializing your dog is crucial if you want to make sure that your dog is comfortable and well-behaved around other animals and people. You should begin socializing your dog when he is young and continue to socialize him throughout his life to maintain the socialization lessons. There are several ways that you can socialize your dog, including inviting people over, taking your dog on daily walks, and enrolling your dog in obedience training classes.
Socializing a Puppy
Expose your puppy to new people and experiences between the ages of 3 to 12 weeks.Puppies from the age of 3 to 12 weeks are the most accepting of new experiences. During this time you should expose your puppy to as many new (but safe) situations as possible, such as other pets and animals, humans of various ages and sizes, vehicle rides, the outdoors, etc. A short checklist of things your puppy should be exposed to includes:
- Unfamiliar people of different genders, sizes, ages, and ethnicities.Have willing people pet and handle the puppy in a positive manner. Also, make sure your puppy is exposed to people wearing hats, jackets and boots.
- Children.If you don’t have children in your house, bring your puppy to a park where children are playing (making sure it’s okay to bring a dog to this park.) Let the puppy see and hear the kids playing.
- Other animals/pets. If you don’t have another pet, ask a friend with a cat or other pet if you can expose your puppy to their pets. Don’t have the puppy play with the pet but instead have the puppy sit calmly by your side as the pet goes about its business.
- People doing different activities. Make sure your puppy is exposed to people using roller blades, wheel chairs, canes, exercising, jogging, and running.
- Different walking/sitting surfaces. Let your puppy walk and sit on mud, slippery surfaces, carpet, tile, metal (like a veterinarian’s examination table), gravel, bridges, dirt, wood floors.
- Noises.Some puppies can become frightened of vacuums, fans, hair dryers, bells, yelling, singing if they are not exposed to them.
- Traveling.Especially in a car so veterinary and grooming appointments aren’t as stressful
- Odd things.Some puppies may be frightened of odd things like plastic bags, umbrellas, rain coats, or baby strollers if they are not exposed to them while they are young.
Help your puppy to feel comfortable during exposure sessions.Remember that everything is new and strange to your puppy. It’s your responsibility to introduce new things to your puppy in a calm, reassuring manner to help him acclimate to our world successfully. Take time to reassure your puppy and offer him treats to reward him for good behavior.
- Keep these exposure sessions short so that you do not overwhelm your puppy.
Use your best judgement when introducing your puppy to a new experience.Some experiences can overwhelm a puppy and make him scared. Don’t make a big deal of it, nor try to soothe your puppy as he might associate the attention with his fearful reaction. Instead walk him away from what is overwhelming him, go to a quiet area, and let him play with a favorite toy or just sit with him until he is calm. Once he is calm, you can gradually introduce him to these experiences so he has time to adapt to the novelty of the situation.
- If the situation is out of your control (like a large, noisy crowd) it is best to take him home. If it’s something less raucous try sitting in an out of the way spot with your puppy and let him be an observer.
Keep in mind that your puppy will be less accepting of new experiences as he gets older.After about 12 weeks of age until around 18 weeks, your puppy’s acceptance of new experiences will begin to wear off and your puppy will become more cautious. This change is normal and helps the puppy learn to protect itself from danger when it’s no longer dependent upon its mother to protect it.
Consider enrolling your puppy in a socialization class.Socialization classes are offered at community centers, veterinarian clinics, and large pet stores. These classes introduce puppies to many experiences including other puppies, people, dogs, and a variety of sights, sounds, smells, and equipment. Puppies are allowed off their leashes to play and play-fight with other puppies and with owners of the other puppies. This helps them to get to know other people and dogs and, through the other puppies, to learn to be gentle with their mouths.
- Basic obedience lessons are usually included in the socialization classes. Depending on the leader some classes include an introduction to sounds like traffic, construction sounds, and other odd sounds through use of CD’s or other means to help them to temper their fear response to these noises.
Socializing an Adult Dog
Seek help from an animal behaviorist or veterinarian.If you have an older puppy or a dog which was poorly socialized as a puppy you will have to work with the dog to get it to be an acceptable canine citizen. Dogs that were raised as “puppy mill” breeding dogs, those which had poor puppy socialization, or who were raised from birth away from other dogs often become poorly socialized adult dogs.
- Before you try to socialize an adult dog, you should seek the advice of an animal behaviorist or a veterinarian with training in dog socialization. Your local humane society may have an animal behaviorist on staff or a college of veterinary medicine will have trained behaviorists.
- If your dog shows any tendency to bite or be aggressive with another dog, do not attempt to socialize him on your own. Contact a professional. It is better to admit that you need help with your dog than to have him injure, maim, or kill another animal or even a human.
- Do not attempt to socialize your dog unless you are capable of maintaining absolute physical control of your dog at all times. If you are unable or unwilling to do so, do not attempt to socialize your dog.
Use a muzzle and head halter to control your dog.To prevent your dog from biting another dog or a human, use muzzle and a head halter or gentle leader. The muzzle covers your dog’s mouth and the head collar attaches to the muzzle to help you control him better. The head collar fits around the muzzle and behind the ears of the dog. It applies gentle pressure and allows you to have control over the dog with subtle leash control.
- Consider getting a basket muzzle instead of a nylon muzzle. A basket muzzle will allow your dog to pant, which is how dogs stay cool. He can also drink water while wearing a basket muzzle.
- Get your dog used to wearing the muzzle and head halter within the confines of your house before you bring the dog outside wearing these items. Follow the directions that come with your particular head halter.
- You can also fit your dog with a harness so that you can also use that if needed to control your dog.
Ask a friend to help you introduce your dog to their dog.You will need to have both dogs on leashes and kept about 10 feet away from each other, so it is necessary to have two people on hand to make the introduction. Only attempt to introduce your dog to a dog that is friendly to other dogs and that is under the control of an owner that you know well.
Select a neutral space to make the introduction.Do not try to introduce your dogs in your house or in your back yard. These spaces are your existing dog’s territory and he is more likely to be aggressive when he is in them. Choose a neutral space like a friend’s backyard (not the dog owner friend’s backyard) or a nearby dog park.
Introduce your dog to your friend’s dog.Walk up to your friend, with your dog next to you (on his leash). Do not allow your dogs to get too close. Stand so that you and your friend are between them. If your dog growls, turn around and walk away. Make your dog sit with his back to the other dog until he calms down. When he does calm down, reward him with a quiet “good boy.”
- Depending on the dog, this process may need to be repeated for a few days to a few weeks.
- Keep both dogs on leashes and separated from each other during this process. Make sure that your friend keeps his dog on its leash and stands about 10 feet away from you in the beginning and after any aggressive reactions. Increase the distance if necessary.
Observe your dog’s behavior.Watch both dogs to see what they do when they are introduced, but pay special attention to your dog. If you notice that your dog looks relaxed and happy, then you should be able to bring him closer as long as your friend’s dog also seems relaxed and happy. If one or both dogs is displaying signs of aggression (baring teeth, growling, tense posture), then you should move them further apart.
- Watch for signs, such as play bows (putting out the front paws and lowering the head and shoulders) and a relaxed stance. These signs indicate that he is feeling playful rather than aggressive.
Distract your dog with treats to defuse any tension.If your dog becomes aggressive, stop the introduction by moving the dogs away from each other. Talk to your dog in a soothing voice and try to calm him down. Show him a treat and then give him a simple command and reward him with the treat once he's earned it. Do not allow the dogs to get closer to each other if either one seems aggressive.
- Don't just give your dog a treat right away for no reason; this may encourage their aggressive behavior.
- Consider commanding your dog to sit, or complete another similarly simple task.
- If the first attempt resulted in aggressive behavior from one or both dogs, increase the distance between the dogs and try to introduce the dogs again.
- If your dog does not have a positive reaction by the time you have attempted to introduce him to another dog for 15 minutes, stop and try again another day. You may have to do this several times before your dog has a positive reaction to the other dog.
Contact a professional if your dog shows extreme aggression or if he does not improve with time.If your dog does not show any signs of acceptance after several attempts to introduce him to another dog or if his aggression is severe (lunging, growling, barking, etc.), contact an animal behaviorist or certified professional dog trainer.
Invite people over often.To keep your dog socialized, you will need to continue to introduce him to new people and animals. Making sure that your dog has regular exposure to many different types of people and animals will help to maintain the work you have done to socialize him. You can also use ongoing socialization as a way to help your dog conquer his fears about certain people or objects.
- For example, if your dog has a fear of men with beards, invite a couple of bearded men over to dinner. After your dog has gotten used to how they look, have them feed your dog a few treats. This will help your dog to feel more comfortable with bearded men.
Take your dog on frequent walks.Walking your dog is a great way to socialize him and get him used to new sights and sounds. Try to take your dog for a short walk around your neighborhood every day. Take different routes every day to expose your dog to new sights and sounds.
- Try finding a quiet bench in the park and allow your dog to observe the sights and sounds around him.
Use a muzzle if your dog bites.If your dog is aggressive and prone to biting, you should use a muzzle whenever new people or animals will be present. This will help prevent your dog from seriously injuring or even killing another animal or person. Muzzles are also great training tools because they allow your dog to experience new people and animals in a low-risk way.
Seek help if your dog’s behavior does not improve.Some dogs may not respond well to socialization efforts. If your dog does not improve with continued socialization efforts, seek the help of an animal behaviorist or certified professional dog trainer. Ask your veterinarian for a referral if you are not sure where to look.
- Consider group training or one-on-one training for your dog. Ongoing obedience training is a great way to get your dog to behave around other animals and people. Taking your dog to group obedience classes can also help to introduce him to new animals and people, but many dog trainers offer one-on-one sessions as well.
QuestionMy four-year old Siberian husky is blind. Do I use the same methods to socialize him?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerIt just as important for a blind dog to lead and rich and fulfilled life as a sighted one, so you are absolutely right to socialize him. Use the methods described here, but be aware that he won't pick up body language clues from other dogs, so you may need to select friendly or gentle dogs for him to meet. Also, he may become overwhelmed more easily since he's more likely to become confused, so take things slowly and never force him into a situation. Try not to change too many things at once, so when meeting a new dog, do this is a familiar place so he knows where to escape to if things get too much.Thanks!
QuestionI rescued a dog three weeks ago. She is aggressive to people and also people with other dogs. I pick her up to control her but this morning she nipped me. Please help!
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerMost rescues work with behaviorists who can advise and help you. Aggression is a complex topic and needs careful assessment or you could end up making the problem worse. Often it is due to fear, rather than downright nastiness. If she nipped you, then one way to stay safe is to muzzle her while you work on the bad behavior. It could be she needs to be retrained to feel less threatened, in which case the help of a dog trainer or animal behaviorist is essential.Thanks!
QuestionI have a one year-old golden. I spend a lot of time with him and I am a petite 63 year old. I want him socialized. Is it too late?MinnatronCommunity AnswerNo. He's still a pup until two, so you have time. Try to take him to places with other dogs, like beaches, if there are any near you. Take walks around the neighborhood, and invite any friends with dogs to come play. Also try to invite neighborhood children to pet him. Goldens are naturally social and love children.Thanks!
QuestionMy five-month-old rottweiler gets super excited on the leash when she sees other people on our walk. How can I get her to calm down?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe answer is very simple. You have to expect her to stay calm. If you expect her to get excited, you'll start tensing up and she senses that. Dogs do what their owners do. Just like in a pack, the other dogs follow the alpha. You are the alpha. Therefore, set an example. When she gets excited, don't pick her up. Calm her down with smooth, calm strokes on her back. Don't try to stop her. Just stroke her. If she still doesn't stop, continue walking, keeping her by your side. Don't look at her. Just keep walking straight. Remember, you are the alpha. You are in charge.Thanks!
QuestionI have an 18 month-old pitbull mix. He is fine with people, but despises other animals. What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYour best bet would be to contact a reputable animal behaviorist to work with you and your dog on this issue. At 18 months, your pet's habits are fairly ingrained, and it will likely take professional-level training to reverse this behavior.Thanks!
- Try dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) products to help your new puppy and existing dog feel more at ease. DAP has been shown to significantly reduce stress and anxiety in dogs.You can buy DAP collars and other products in pet stores and online.
- Don’t punish your dog for barking at other dogs. It may teach him to associate other dogs with punishment, which may increase his dislike of other dogs.
- Be cautious when introducing your dog to new people. If he is not used to people, he may bark or even try to bite. Keep him under your control at all times.
- Make sure that your puppy has had his shots before you begin to socialize him with other dogs. The American Veterinary Medicine Association recommends starting socialization with other dogs (outside the immediate household) after the first set of shots which can be given at 7-8 weeks of age.
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