If you’ve got a shy, grown canine who’d rather play with their dog collar than meet other animals, you’re in the right place. It's easiest to socialize puppies because they are fearless and curious—everything is new to them. They have not had any negative experiences before. While socializing older dogs is still doable, yet slightly more challenging.
The Importance of Socialization
Not every dog can experience the luxury of getting socialized as a puppy. For example, dogs adopted later in life often do not have the opportunity to interact with many other dogs. This means that natural fear of other dogs becomes an obsession for some. It’s no surprise; a dog without proper socialization may be anxious around other dogs without realizing why.
At other times, socialization is out of a dog’s paws or even our own hands due to the circumstances. The recent lockdown held the younger members of our pack back from making new friends and experiencing the world around them.
No matter the reason, if a dog misses the ideal age of 7 weeks—4 months, it may struggle with socialization later in life. Some dogs learn a few things about interacting with other dogs, but they soon forget them. (Repetition is key!) Some dogs feel comfortable around other dogs but become anxious when separated. (Continuation is critical!)
But just before you grab their dog collar and put it on, keep reading.
How to Train an Adult Dog to Be Sociable
Socializing an adult dog is more challenging than socializing a puppy because older dogs fear new experiences. To combat this obstacle, we strongly recommend introducing the dog to the trigger slowly, then rewarding them for behaving calmly by giving treats and positive attention.
Tip 1: Introduce Them Gradually
The best way to prepare for a new addition to the family is to make sure your pet feels calm. In the early days of socialization, you should set your dog up for success by ensuring they’re in a controlled environment and that they have a lot of opportunities—within reason—to make good choices. It’s helpful to have learned obedience commands such as “come” so that you can get your dog’s attention if needed.
Tip 2: Remain Optimistic
Prepare to praise your dog for good behavior and give them treats when they succeed. It can be challenging to break bad habits. While introducing your dog to these social interactions, be sure to encourage them.
Tip 3: Take Them for Walks
Now you’re ready to put on their dog collar for a walk! Taking in all the neighborhood sights, smells, and sounds is essential for socialization. If a conflict arises, turn around and go home. Make sure to bring treats to reward positive interactions with other dogs and humans!
Tip 4: Introduce a New Canine Acquaintance
Go on a walk with a friend and their dog. Keep plenty of space between the two dogs. Reward your dog if they're calm. Take the leashes off at the end of the walk but keep the dog collars on so you can easily spot them. Don’t forget to reward positive interactions.
Tip 5: Introduce a New Human Acquaintance
If your dog fears other dogs, get them used to people. Invite someone over, and if your dog remains calm, give them treats. As they grow comfortable with one person, they should see all people as their friends.
It's not too late to socialize adult dogs; they can still learn a lot. Just remember that your canine may forget what they've learned. It takes time, patience, and repetition, but you can teach them the skills they need to be social. Never leave them caged or chained up in your home. Take them outside, so they warm up to your neighbors and fellow neighborhood dogs!
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