Dog Socialization: It Starts With YOU

Are you worthy of obedience?

While it may seem harsh, who you are impacts how your dog behaves. The better relationship you have with your dog and the better role model you are, the more your dog will respect and obey you. Dog socialization is a process for both owner and dog, oftentimes requiring training for the dog owner and consistent work and relationship-building over time with the dog.

Dog Socialization

dog socializationIn the broadest sense, dog socialization is a measure of how comfortable a dog is around others, including humans and other dogs. Dog socializing establishes good manners and confidence, decreases aggression, and contributes to happiness and well-being for both dog and owner.

Dog socialization is an important skill that is learned and is best done so in the early stages of a dog’s life. Socializing puppies is especially important as it establishes the foundation for their social life as adult dogs. If you own a puppy, you have the burden to properly socialize them in order to have a well-behaved dog later-on.

Compared to dog training, dog socialization can have a greater impact on your dog’s behavior (such as begging, getting food off the counter, peeing in the house or whining). Both training and socializing help to solidify your relationship with your pup and help you have a positive dog ownership experience.

If for whatever reason you weren’t able to socialize your puppy or you acquire an older dog in need of socialization, you’ll find the following tips for dog socialization useful.

First and foremost think, "the more exercise the better," as a dog who has less energy and a calm state of mind will be more receptive to you and better behaved overall.

Signs of a poorly socialized dog

The dog socialization period, or window, is during puppyhood (first 3-12 weeks of life), meaning how they were socialized during this period impacts them for the rest of their life. Some signs that a dog wasn’t properly socialized in puppyhood include:

  • Cowering, skittish and otherwise acts fearful
  • Aggression towards you, other people and other dogs
  • Excessively barks, licks their lips, sniffs or yawns in the presence of others
  • Is disobedient and out of control

You may need to get help from a dog behaviorist to address severe behaviors such as aggression towards you and others. Never force a dog into a situation that could be dangerous for you or others.

If you find yourself with an adult dog who displays signs of poor socialization, be sure to never yell or act aggressively towards them. They are looking to you for how to act and you could unintentionally be teaching them to behave badly. Instead, always maintain a calm, assertive demeanor and use positive reinforcement to encourage different behavior. Adult dogs will require time and patience to unlearn learned behaviors.

Tips for Dog Socialization

1. Daily walks

daily walks for dog socializationProbably the best thing you can do to socialize your adult dog is to take them on daily walks. Exercise helps release energy and calm them down. Secondly, getting out of the house is the most likely way to come across other dogs and humans. Variable conditions which exist on walks overwhelm dogs’ senses and familiarizes them with the outside world; thereby strengthening their resilience. While it may be difficult at first, walking everyday will ensure consistent practice. When your dog misbehaves on a walk, instead of yelling and jerking at the leash, try distracting them with a sound, slight tug on the leash or get them moving again by walking away from what is disturbing them. Your approach should be less about fighting against your dog, and more about working with them.

2. Dog socialization classes

Dog socialization or training classes are a great place to meet other dogs and humans under the guidance of an experienced trainer. The trainer can help you introduce your dog slowly and safely to others as well as provide training for you on how to best socialize your dog.

Socializing with other dogs

At the dog park...

If your dog has trouble with it, start by walking around the dog park; familiarizing them first before going in. If your dog acts aggressively, walk further away and then slowly bring them closer to the fence; backing away again when they become aggressive.

Walking with a friend...

Schedule walks with a friend or neighbor you know has a dog who is even tempered and well-behaved. Walking allows for a neutral meeting place (rather than a home in which dogs feel territorial), a common goal and an environment that is distracting enough to allow for low-pressure socialization.

If your dog does well, you can then try taking them to the house of the dog they walked with. Since your dog will be on their new mate’s turf, they are much less likely to act out. If you dog behaves well at their house, next have that dog over at your house. Then continually repeat this process with new dogs!

Socializing with other humans

Introduce your dog to different types of people

To get your dog used to everyone, be sure to introduce them to babies, elders, men, women and people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Your dog needs to know that good people come in all shapes and sizes.

Remain calm when your dog acts out

dog socializingYou don’t have to sprint down the street screaming when your dog chases the mailman. In fact, calmness, by both you and the mailman, is the most effective way to also calm your dog. You want to convince your dog that everything is OK and normal. Also, you don’t want to inadvertently associate negativity (i.e. you losing it) with the experience of meeting other humans. You want to facilitate a positive experience with each new encounter; thereby creating positive associations in your dog’s mind about interacting with new people. Since dogs inherently want to please us, dogs will react to your behavior in an attempt to give you what they perceive you want.

Be extra sensitive with new people coming into your home

Dogs are territorial of their home and family. Having others into their home is probably the greatest test of good socialization.

  • Have new people pet your dog in such a way that their hands remain visible, such as by petting their chin or allowing your dog to smell their hands first.
  • Give new people coming into your home treats to bribe your dog with.

Socializing your adult dog is more of an art than a science and thus you will have to work with them and their personality to find what is most effective. But don’t worry, there is hope for you to have a more obedient and socialized adult dog.

For more comprehensive information on dog socialization, you can check out the Animal Humane Society.


Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information contained or made available through the ColoradoDog website is not intended to constitute or substitute for legal advice or veterinary advice.

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