Socializing Your Puppy or Dog

11/11/2016
by Jessica Rollins

Almost all new dog owners know i

One of the best things you can do for your dog is to help prevent a fearful response to a situation and the many effects this can cause. Nervousness due to a lack of proper socialization can manifest in biting, chewing, housebreaking errors, barking, and separation anxiety. You can socialize your pet by gently exposing her to a variety of situations. The younger you begin, the better, as puppies absorb things faster, but all dogs can be gradually brought into new and even initially fearful circumstances and learn to enjoy (or at least tolerate) them.

Expose your dog to something new or something she is fearful of in the following manner:

  • Remain calm. Speak to your dog in a confident and matter-of-fact tone. Keep tension off of the leash.
  • Avoid petting or cooing to your dog if she is reacting in a manner you would not like to reinforce (jumping around, scared, etc.).
  • Expose the dog gradually to what she is fearful of, never forcing her. Allow her to retreat if she wants too.
  • When she is being calm, praise, give treats and pet her.
  • Use treats or toys to lure her through the experience (ex. Put treats on the floor near a new person Then give the new person treats to hand to the dog).

Typical situations to work on:

  • The crate
  • The car
  • New people: Of all races and ages. Include people wearing hats, backpacks, carrying canes, in wheelchairs and behaving strangely such as barking at your dog.
  • New dogs
  • Being held and touched in a slightly rough or medical/grooming manner.
  • The vet or groomer's office
  • Loud noises and strange objects (ex. umbrella opening, loud trucks)
  • Being left alone for longer than average periods
  • The boarding kennel
  • A crowded place like a pet store or baseball game

A great way to let your dog meet people and other dogs is by going to a place like Petco or PetSmart where dogs are allowed inside the store. I would suggest doing this on a weekly basis and then more sporadically as your dog becomes more comfortable around all people and dogs. Puppies under 4 months can safely visit one of these stores inside the cart.

Click here for our article on how to socialize puppies that are afraid of people.

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