One of the most important things to remember to keep your dog healthy is that you must allow him plenty of opportunities to socialize—with people and other animals. Canines are social creatures. Even taking regular walks with your pet around the block results in marked improvement in your dog’s overall health and behavior. There are plenty of ways on how to socialize your dog. The key is introducing him to new environments and experiences starting at a very young age. Even if you have an older dog, it’s never too late to get started on some basic socialization and setting up play dates!
Getting Your Dog Ready to Socialize
If you want to know how to socialize your puppy, or even if you have an adolescent or adult dog, get started with these reminders.
1. Stock up on his favorite treats
Treats are a vital part of behavior training, same as when you’re learning how to train your dog to socialize. Offering his favorite treat with every successful interaction will help your dog better associate the behavior with being rewarded and enhance the positive experience.
2. Take precautions
Larger breed dogs can appear especially threatening to other people. During your initial outings, you might want to use a muzzle first to avoid any accidents in case your pet shows aggressive behavior.
3. Prevent leash aggression
Leash aggression happens when your dog barks, lunges, or pulls forward when he comes face to face with another person or another animal. Prevent any threatening behavior before going out by training your dog to pay attention to you when you call him. Say his name and offer him a reward every time he looks at you. Start his kind of training indoors and gradually do the same outside in busier areas.
4. Take it slow
When you’re just starting to learn how to get your dog to socialize, you can never go too slowly. Don’t let him meet a bunch of people all at once—that’s bound to induce anxiety if not an aggressive reaction. When walking at a dog park, keep a comfortable distance from other people and dogs. If he notices them, get his attention and offer a reward. If he barks or lunges, add more distance. Keep repeating until he’s able to go closer without being aggressive.
5. Always keep your cool
Your dog may unexpectedly act frightened or aggressive and for these, you need to be mentally prepared. Whatever happens, you need to keep your composure because it’s the only way you can calm him down when he gets afraid or acts up.
How to Socialize Your Dog with Humans
How do you socialize your dog with other people? Introduce him to the outside world and maybe even consider a puppy class or dog boot camp.
1. Never skip on your daily walks
The easiest and best way to socialize your dog is to take him for daily walks. Besides being a necessity so your pet can relieve himself, going out lets him get more comfortable with his surroundings and explore new sights, sounds, and smells. It also allows him the chance to meet new people and make new friends. Puppies should definitely already be exposed to different environments at three to 12 weeks old.
2. Allow him to meet new people
In the case of a new dog or a puppy, start with family members. Introduce new people one at a time and make sure your dog is securely leashed. You can have the people meeting him, offer him treats or his favorite toy to help make your dog more agreeable. If he seems fearful, don’t push it. Try again the next day.
3. Enroll him in dog classes
Dog training classes are specifically designed to allow canines and humans to interact in a safe and controlled environment. Dog classes can especially be beneficial to puppies and young dogs, although an adult dog that’s not been accustomed to the presence of other people may also have a thing or two to learn. Your vet would have some information on where you might be able to enroll your pet.
How to Socialize Your Dog to Other Dogs
How to train your dog to socialize with other dogs? Go to where the other dogs are, of course! You can take him to a dog park or visit a friend who owns a pet.
1. Visit the dog park
If your community is lucky enough to have a dog park, it’s definitely a great place if you’re just finding out how to socialize your dog with other dogs and people. But if it’s the first time you’re taking your pet to the park, it would be best to walk him around the perimeter first to get him familiar with the presence of other humans and animals. Let him watch from a comfortable distance. When he wants to go closer and sniffs around, reward him with a treat. Wait for him to feel comfortable enough to approach other dogs.
2. Take him to the pet shop
A trip to the pet shop with your dog can turn out to be healthy. If you must go on a quick run to buy some dog food or supplies, you might consider bringing your pet with you! If you haven’t taken your dog with you on a car trip, check out these useful tips on how to prepare your dog to travel.
3. Go on play dates
Talk to a friend or neighbor whose pets could use a playmate. Just remember all the safety precautions you have to take when introducing dogs to each other. First, make sure that the other dog is friendly. If your dog shows signs of discomfort like having his tail between his legs, cowering, or excessive panting, don’t force the interaction. However, if he shows signs of interest, give him a treat to let him know that being sociable is accepted behavior.
Here is an infographic how to train your dog to socialize with everything
Socialization should be part of caring for your pet dog, starting at an early age. If you have an adult or elderly dog who acts shy, fearful, or aggressive, a little dose of socialization can be exactly what he needs. Just remember to keep interactions short so as not to wear your buddy out. It’s also important to be patient because dog behavior can’t change overnight. As long as you provide him enough time and exposure, your dog will eventually learn to warm up to other people and animals.