Socializing your dog or puppy is the first step toward training. A dog who is not socialized will have difficulty with trust as he has not been exposed to new ideas, smells, noises or friends, both human and four legged. He will learn to feel safe. It will help him to understand what is happening around him. By taking the time to introduce your dog to a variety of situations, you are opening him up to new experiences and showing your dog that the world is a fun place to be.
I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post if required. All safety and medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.
Introducing Your Puppy to Humans
Puppies are trusting and adventurous. They are open to new ideas. They feel that everyone loves them and will comfortably visit with anyone who is calm and inviting.
Use every opportunity to introduce your puppy to new people, of all ages. Taking them for daily walks has multiple benefits. Obviously, the exercise is great and the ability to let her sniff, explore and learn about new situations provides great brain stimulation, but there will likely be people and other dogs along the way as well. At a public park or hiking trail, your pup will have many chances to engage with humans and dogs of all ages and sizes.
If the humans want to pet the new puppy and your puppy doesn’t seem fearful, let them. Your dog will learn to be comfortable being approached and touched by many people. This will create a level of comfort with people in general. If you keep your pup away from people and anxiously pull her away, she will associate other humans with anxiety. Once this happens, your pup may shy away from, or even become aggressive toward people because they think people are to be feared.
If the human that wants to visit with your puppy is a young child, be sure the child is calm. Be sure the parent is present and agrees to the interaction. If possible, show the child how to let the puppy sniff his hand first and not to try to grab or move too quickly. Speak calmly and softly to both of them. Keep your puppy from jumping on the child or being too bouncy. This will benefit both the puppy and the child, as it teaches them both how to behave in each other’s company.
A dog, even a puppy, who jumps up on a young child, can create a permanent fear of dogs. Alternatively, a child who pulls a puppy’s fur or slaps at her, can instill a fear of children in your pup. Both of these can be avoided by taking the time to introduce both of them the best way to interact with each other.
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Introducing Puppies to Other Dogs
When introducing your puppy to new dogs, be sure to wait until she has had all of her vaccinations. Once she can safely play with other dogs, you can take her on puppy play dates with other pet owners. Make sure you know the temperament of the dogs you are introducing your pup to. An overzealous or even mildly aggressive dog can have a negative impact if your puppy is afraid. Start slowly with well socialized dogs or other puppies so that she feels safe and calm.
Another way to expose your puppy to a variety of dogs is to take a puppy training class. While there are many dogs around that you may not know, you will be there along with a professional trainer to encourage proper interactions and maintain controlled environment. Your puppy can be learning basic skills and manners while meeting new friends.
NOTE: LEASH FREE PARKS ARE NOT A SAFE AND CONTROLED ENVIRONMENT. DOGS PLAYING IN A DOG PARK ARE RARELY CALM. THEY ARE VERY EXCITED AND WILL OFTEN APPROACH YOUR PUPPY VERY QUICKLY. THIS CAN BE TERRIFYING AND WILL BE DETRIMENTAL TO YOUR PUPPY’S DEVELOPMENT. ALSO, NOT ALL DOGS ARE PROPERLY SOCIALIZED AND THE INTERACTIONS CAN BE AGGRESSIVE AND DANGEROUS.
Socializing Older or Fearful Dogs
Unfortunately, many dogs don’t have the benefit proper socialization as a puppy. Rescues, for example, have often been neglected or abused before they are rescued and placed in a loving home. Some have lived on the streets where humans were a threat and other dogs were competition. Rescues are usually older and have passed the point of innocent puppy curiosity. This makes socialization more difficult, but not impossible.
There are many challenges to overcome. It will take much more time and patience. You will have to devote a lot of time, and perhaps elicit the help of a professional trainer, but it will be worth it. These dogs are often so grateful and eager to please. They are so loving because they have lived in fear and danger for so long.
Many of the methods used for puppies can be used for timid dogs, but the results may take a lot longer. The use of positive reinforcement, encouragement and treats will go a long way. A professional trainer will be able to assess your dog’s needs and guide both of you through the best methods of socialization. In the mean-time, exposure to a variety of places and people will help your fearful doggo to realize that he is safe in his new environment. He will slowly learn to trust, which will go a long way to develop great social skills.
Other Important Things to Consider When Socializing Your Dog or Puppy
When meeting other dogs on walks or in social settings, it’s important to remember to ask permission to approach another dog. Even if the dog seems calm and well behaved, there may be an underlying issue that could be triggered with a seemingly innocent movement or sound. The same rules apply for dog interactions. Your dog or puppy may just want to play with a new friend, but the other dog may be learning or dealing with fears or stresses that could result in a scary or dangerous encounter for both animals as well as the owners.
Socialization is a very important part of raising a happy and well-adjusted dog. It encourages confidence, it teaches manners, and it allows for enjoyable outings. A well socialized dog is not fearful of the unfamiliar. He doesn’t react negatively to new people. When he sees another dog, he does not feel threatened or afraid. These become a positive part of his day. Each new person or dog friend is a step toward living his best life. Socializing your dog is the best way to ensure that he is able to have a peaceful and stress-free life.