Whilst it is easier to train a puppy, it isn’t true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks or encourage positive behavior from an adult dog. This is true when considering socializing a dog: socialization is very important because it prevents unwanted behavior from a dog when they are put in an unexpected or new situation, and it can help to ease the anxiety and stress that your dog encounters during these situations.
Below are 11 steps to help socialize an adult dog, including some common mistakes to avoid, to help you achieve the best results.
The 11 Tips to Socialize an Adult Dog
1. Be Patient
One of the biggest mistakes with dog socialization is trying to do too much, too soon. Don’t take your dog to the local dog park where it will be inundated with other pups. Start with a quiet route or even a deserted route where you can control the people and animals that you meet along the way. Start with short walks and introductions to one or two people or animals and only progress once your dog is comfortable in these situations.
2. Be Positive
Your dog can sense your emotions and can tell how you feel. If you’re panicked and anxious, your dog will likely feel the same. If you come across as being calm and happy, your dog will feed off this positive energy. Be patient, don’t worry, and take things one step at a time.
3. Don’t Punish Fear
If your adult dog has not been socialized, it can lead to fear and anxiety. This can manifest as aggressive behavior, and while it is understandable that owners become equally anxious over this type of response, it is important not to punish or yell at your dog. You can say no and then reward them if they stop. On the other hand, it is also important that you don’t make too much of a fuss over them.
4. Go for Regular Walks
Walks present some of the best opportunities for socialization. Depending on where you walk, you can come into contact with people of all ages, dogs of all ages and types, and new situations that your pup has yet to encounter. Doing so regularly will mean more introductions, and opportunities to socialize and your dog will get used to the types of situations they encounter.
5. Meet Adult Dogs
Adult dogs tend to be calmer than puppies, although this does obviously depend on the dog in question. Try to instigate a meeting with an adult dog. Be calm and allow the dogs to approach but do leave some space between them. If everything goes smoothly and your dog remains calm, reward with a treat and walk the dogs together. Eventually, if things continue calmly, you can let them sniff one another with their leashes on.
6. Meet Adult Humans
Similarly, adult humans are calmer and should have a better understanding of how to act and react around dogs. If your dog is nervous or anxious, invite a friend round to the house and ask them to ignore the dog when they arrive. If the dog remains calm, reward them with a treat. Let the dog approach the human and reward them for positive behavior, ignoring any unwanted behavior, but don’t push the introduction too far.
7. Meet Puppies and Children
Once your dog gets along with adult dogs and humans, you can start introducing them to younger members of both species. Follow the same steps but be aware that children and puppies can be louder, more boisterous, and won’t necessarily act as respectfully around your dog. Always allow plenty of room between your dog and their new acquaintance and reward positive behavior.
8. Introduce Your Dog to New People And Situations
Whenever you enter a new location or a new situation, remember that this is another introduction for your dog. Certain events, people, or animals can trigger anxiety in dogs, so always pay attention to how your dog is acting to determine how they are feeling, and always follow the same rules of introduction.
9. Go to The Dog Park
The dog park is a relatively safe environment for your dog where it will come into contact with multiple dogs and owners. Other dog owners should be respectful of your dog’s boundaries and more understanding of any anxiety or fearfulness. When you first visit, stay outside the perimeter of the park. Let them get used to the other dogs being in the area and see what is going on. Next time you visit, you can go inside the fence as long as your dog reacted calmly during the first visit.
10. Mix Up Your Routine
Some dogs are anxious about adults, some are specifically anxious around males. Some may even get anxious around people in uniform, cyclists, or around cars and other vehicles. This means that you need to gradually introduce your adult dog to all of these new people and situations. Change the route you walk and visit different dog parks and areas so that you can introduce your canine companion to a host of different situations.
11. Sign Up for Training Classes
Dog training classes, like dog parks, will obviously contain dogs and their owners. This means yet more opportunities to meet other dogs, and the trainer in charge of the class will be able to help with introductions and training methods to make the process go even more smoothly. Sign up, attend, and take things slowly. You can always stand at the back of the class and watch the first session as an introduction for you and your dog.
Socialization is an important element in the development of all dogs. Unfortunately, some puppies do not get the socialization they need, for one reason or another. This can result in the dog becoming anxious when meeting people, other dogs, and animals, or when put in new situations. It’s never too late to socialize an adult dog, but you should take things slowly.
Be calm, be consistent, and be prepared to reward positive behavior without shouting and reprimanding your dog for showing signs of fear or anxiety.
Featured Image Credit: Olena Yakobchuk, Shutterstock