It’s good to have a dog that is well socialized. Especially with humans and other dogs. The best time to start socializing your dog is when they are still a puppy. Don’t worry though, you can still train your dog to be social at any age. It just helps to make things easier when you start as a puppy.
This is due to a “sweet spot” in their development stage. During the 16 to 20 week period is the perfect time to socialize your dog. This is due to a period of time where your dog isn’t fearful of noises, people, other dogs, and more. After this period, your dog starts to become more aware of their environment. Strange noises or people can provoke fearful or aggressive reactions.
For the sake of this article, your dog is an adult and you want to socialize them. This will require a lot of patience and training. You’ll also need to learn dog body language. You’ll also need to understand the behavior state a dog’s mind.
For example, your dog may growl or bark at another dog that comes close. If you punish them during this stage, your dog may learn that growling or barking is bad behavior. Therefore, they must bite the dog instead of warning them. With this in mind, here are 10 tips to help socialize your dog as an adult.
1) Take Your Dog on Daily walks
The goal here is to mitigate direct contact with people and dogs. You want your dog to get used to new things such as…
- Introduces your dog to new smells
- Different environments and distractions
- See other people walking around in this new land
- Seeing and smelling other animals at a distance
All of these things give your dog a new take on the world. They will learn that there is more to the world than just their yard. It helps to avoid all contact with other people and dogs at first. The point is to just get your dog used to this type of environment.
It can help to bring your dog’s favorite toy, treats, and blanket with you. Set yourself a place to lay down on the grass. Invite your dog to lie down and observe their environment. Using treats, you can create a positive experience for them.
2) Make Encounters Positive
You want to praise and encourage your dog. Make the experience of meeting a new person or dog a positive one. If meeting new people, use treats liberally. This will help the dog associate new people as a good thing. You can use the same approach with other dogs just lose the treats. Treats could lead to squabbles if not handled correctly.
Reward all the positive behaviors. If your dog looks over at the other dog, reinforce that behavior. When your dog wags their tail and sniffs them, reinforce that behavior. Especially any other positive interactions your dog will have.
Never force your dog to do anything they don’t want to. Forcing your dog to interact or do something they don’t want to do is wrong. This will force out aggression and lead to problems.
3) Make Encounters Brief
If your dog does show interest in another dog or human, keep the encounter short. 30 seconds is plenty of time for your dog to smell and move on. The goal is to help desensitize your dog. You want them to think it’s normal to just meet someone and walk away. Give lots of praise and treats after each positive encounter.
If you extend beyond 30 seconds, the odds of one dog becoming uncomfortable become high. This is because the other dog is now in their space and they don’t know what to do next. It’s like being a teenage baby sitter and you have to change a diaper. The first time you do it, you have no idea what’s going on. You can become overloaded and break down. Or rush through the entire process.
Just remember, the goal is to make each encounter as positive as possible. Don’t introduce more stress.
4) Start With Less Challenging Encounters and Environments
Leaving the sanctity of your home can be scary. There are a lot of unknown things in the world. New noises, smells, people, animals, and more can be scary. Invite a friend over with their dog that is socialized with other dogs. Start slow and remove your dog from the room. Have the other dog check out the room.
This will make their smell stick around and introduce a new thing for your dog. Now remove the dog from the room and bring your dog in. Let them check out the new dog smell. This helps to start acclimating your dog. Do this a few times before letting them meet behind a gate. Your dog can now see and smell the other dog. This gives a different stimulation.
Do this a few more times before you finally let them meet without a barrier in the way. At every stage of these encounters, always reward your dog and give lots of praise. Remember, you want to make this a positive experience.
5) Learn to Read Dog Body Language
This is an extremely important skill for all dog owners to develop. It can help save yourself a lot of headache and spare your dog unwanted encounters. A great example is a dog who is fearful.
We’ve all seen this stance. Your dog is hunched over, stance off to the side, tail between the legs, ears folded back, and face pointing down. They may even lick their lips or yawn in this position. This is your dog telling you they are afraid, nervous, uncertain, and under stress.
If your dog has their tail up, staring at something, very tense body, and hairs on their backs are standing. This can be a sign of aggression.
There a lots things your dog can tell you with just their body language. You should learn them.
6) Let Your Dog Set the Pace
Remember, you don’t want to force your dog into doing anything they don’t want to. Always give them a choice. If your feel like your dog is ready for the next step and they show signs of fear. Go back to the previous step. Over exerting your dog and stressing them out makes learning impossible.
Always soothe your dog when they start to become frightened and stressed out. This doesn’t mean to praise the dog when they start showing signs of stress and fear. Just remove the trigger of the stress and let your dog wind down. Soothe the winding down behavior.
Yelling only adds to their stress and makes things worse.
7) Don’t Dive In Head First
Always ease your dog into new unknown places, dogs, or people. Listen to their body language and act accordingly.
There is nothing wrong with driving to the dog park and never leaving the car. Let your dog watch the other dogs and people from inside the car. When you feel you’ve made it a positive experience, leave and go back home. Rinse and repeat until you feel your dog is ready to venture out.
By just diving in head first, you can overwhelm your dog. From new smells, noises, environment, people, and animals. It can be information overload and your dog won’t know how to handle everything. By slowly introducing each new thing, such as smells, touches, and sight, you start to build their confidence.
8) Ignore the dog
This tip is helpful when introducing your dog to new people. If your dog isn’t aggressive towards people but fearful, have the stranger ignore your dog. When dog looks at them or interacts with them positively, then you reward them. Not the stranger. This helps the dog feel like they can introduce themselves on their terms.
It also helps promote a positive experience because you are talking with this person. Your own body language helps to teach your dog that this is normal. This can help encourage your dog to be less fearful and be interested in other people.
9) Don’t Behave in A Dominate or Aggressive Manner
You aren’t trying to dominate or be mean to your dog. You want them to learn how to behave and handle themselves around unknown things. By trying to dominate or be aggressive with your dog will instill the wrong behavior. This includes yelling, leash pulling, poking, and hitting. All of these reactions can train your dog to attack rather than retreat.
10) Seek Out Professional Help
Sometimes we try and teach ourselves what to do and nothing is working. It’s not a good idea to just let the problem go and ignore it. Reaching out to professionals is the next step. A great place to start is your local veterinarian. They can make suggestions or recommend dog trainers.
Another great example is an online dog training program called Brain Training for Dogs. It’s dog training taught to you at the tips of your fingers. Long gone are the days where you have to pay for expensive dog trainers.
Having a Socialized Dog
It is one of the best feelings of accomplishment you can have with your dog. You won’t have to worry about how your dog is going to act. They will have learned what is acceptable, when to back off, and what to do next. It also helps makes other training go smoothly. This reinforces positive behaviors in all aspects.