Socializing Your Adult Dog

Dog on LeashSocializing your dog is very important; not only will it make him a better citizen, it will help your dog remain calm in different situations. It’s relatively easy to socialize most puppies because they are open to new experiences and everyone wants to interact with a puppy. But what happens when you adopt an adult dog? It takes a little more effort to socialize an adult dog, especially if they show signs of being fearful or shy around other dogs or people.

When socializing your dog it is very important to remain calm. If you get nervous, your dog will pick up on your emotions and could get nervous in response. Instead of taking your dog out in public, which may be overstimulating, enlist the help of friends and family your dog is unfamiliar with when first attempting to socialize.

  • Have a friend the dog is unfamiliar with stand a few feet away from the dog. Have them toss a treat or one of your dog’s toys on the ground, then walk away. Repeat the process, with the person closer to the dog each time. Your dog should learn to associate positive things with strangers rather than negative things.
  • Use a toy every time you greet your dog after you have been away. The dog should eventually associate the toy with pleasant interaction. Once that has happened, you can use it when your dog is meeting strangers. Give it to visitors when they enter the house or take it with you on walks when you meet strangers along the way.
  • When you introduce new people to your dog, have the person sit down or squat on their haunches so that they appear to be less threatening. The dog will be more accustomed to relaxed social contact. The combination of the environment and passive body posture should produce a more positive response from the dog rather than if the person is looming over the dog as they advance.

If your dog is especially fearful you can take a step back and try the following technique:

  • Sit in an armchair and scatter food around you (or your friend). Your dog can approach and retreat as he likes. As he comes closer, he gets the food and as he runs off he gets nothing. Once he is more interested in the lure, you can now take the food and talk to the dog in the language that he has learned: come here, sit, and down. This in itself is like a behavioral pacifier and will accelerate the bonding process.

Socializing your dog takes patience and lots of praise. It’s like any other training procedure: Take your time, use praise liberally, and keep calm. It’s very important to adequately socialize your dog because both you and your dog will be happier!

Julia Black


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