A dog has a lot to get used to: an environment filled with sights, sounds, smells, other animals and people. By making an effort to socialize your dog, you can help him more easily adjust to living in human society. Socializing your pet can go a long way toward developing a happy, healthy dog that will be your faithful companion for years to come.
In contrast, a poorly socialized dog is more likely to exhibit unacceptable behaviors and may even act aggressively toward other animals or humans. Because he has never learned how to adapt to living in our world, he tends to be fearful of anything or anyone that is unfamiliar to him. Instead of being relaxed and friendly, an improperly socialized dog is always on edge. The slightest provocation, such as a blaring car horn or an approaching stranger, can cause him to behave badly.
Start Socialization Early
As a general rule, if a dog is not socialized while he’s a puppy, it will be difficult to socialize him later on. As the old adage goes, it’s tough to teach an ‘old dog new tricks’. The best time to begin the socialization process is when a puppy is 3 to 12 weeks old. At this point, he’s more open to new experiences. While he may still be frightened by some of the new things he encounters, he’s also at the most ”teachable“ stage of his development.
Take It “Slow and Easy”
The best approach to socializing a puppy is to introduce him to new experiences gradually so he doesn’t feel overwhelmed. For instance, rather than bringing him into a room filled with a bunch of people, let him get used to one or two people at a time. If he appears to be frightened by a situation or has a bad experience, reassure him with praise or reward him with a treat. A great way to gauge your puppy’s socialization progress is to keep a checklist of the stimuli he’s been exposed to and record his reaction to the situation or event.
Send Your Puppy to School
Another way to socialize your puppy is to “enroll” him in a special socialization class. Instructional methods typically include the use of recorded sounds and other props that mimic the stimuli dogs are likely to encounter in the real world. He’ll also be able to interact with other puppies, so he can learn how to play and coexist with other dogs. This can be especially beneficial if you already have another dog in your household.
How to Socialize an Adopted Dog
If you’re taking the wonderful step of giving a loving home to an abandoned or orphaned dog by adopting him from a shelter, you’ll want to gauge his level of socialization. Shelter personnel can usually provide information about the dog’s history. Choosing a dog that came from a good home can simplify the socialization process. As with a puppy, the best approach is to gradually introduce him to his new environment.
No matter what, make sure you start socialization early. You’ll give your dog the best chance to live a happy, healthy lifestyle.