It’s well known that a socially active dog is a healthier, happier dog. In fact, dogs that spend more time around others (people and dogs) are less fearful of new situations, handle visits to the vets/groomers better, and are less stressed in general.
It is recommended puppies experience 7 new social situations each week until 12-16 weeks of age. Enrolling your puppy in an obedience or play class is a great way to get started, and something you can do immediately. What other ways can you help socialize your dog?
A simple walk down your street is essential and offers plenty of opportunities for your puppy to meet others. Use a short leash so they are near you and you have better control. Introduce them to the neighborhood kids and dogs that they will see on a daily basis. Take different routes to allow them to experience new sights, sounds, and smells. There’s a whole world just outside your front door, and allowing your dog to experience it while he is young will make a huge difference as he grows older.
If you’re a big fan of coffee in the morning or a ‘cold one’ in the afternoon, find a local coffee shop like The Ugly Mug and/or brewpub like Barley Labs that allow dogs on the patio. These are great places to meet other people who are on the same journey as you and your dog, and offer a place for your dog to learn a few social graces.
Bring the Treats
While you’re out and about, be sure you are rewarding good behavior on a consistent basis. Every time your dog has a positive interaction with another dog or person, give them praise and a treat. This will teach them that good behavior = love, affection, and tasty goodies. On the other hand, be aware of what’s going on and watch your dog’s body language. If it looks like things are about to go sideways, remove them from the situation. Only let your dog off-leash when they are 100% ready. That means when you call them, they come without hesitation.
Don’t Forget the Weird Objects!
Yup, socialization is not just about people and dogs. It also includes all the new items your puppy will encounter: strollers, bikes, trash cans, lawn chairs, yard ornaments, and the list goes on and on. Some dogs take those in stride and some will be weary. If weary, simply approach the scary object casually and touch it to show your puppy that it’s all good. You can also use treats if needed.
Take your Time and Pay Attention
While you’re socializing your dog, don’t rush it. All dogs are different and some may take a bit longer to feel comfortable around other dogs. Introduce your dog to other dogs his size at first. Imagine you’re a little dog and the first dog you meet at a strange place is a Bull Mastiff! If it doesn’t go well, it will give your dog a bad impression of large breeds. Instead, stick with smaller breeds at first and work your way up. Also, leave your phone in your pocket. That way you’re paying attention to your dog and able to reward their good behavior. It’s hard to witness your dog being awesome when you’re busy posting about it. Take a few pictures if you need to, then put the phone away and be present with your dog.
Enjoy a Calm Dog who Listens!
To learn more about socialization and the benefits of a social dog, follow us on Facebook and give us a call for a consultation at 919-714-9846.