Most dog owners know that the best time to socialize their pup is when they are, in fact, a puppy. Dogs are at their most sensitive — and receptive — between three and twelve weeks of age, so the earlier that you can get your dog socialized, the better. After twelve weeks, it can be very difficult to get a puppy to accept anything new or unfamiliar.
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to socialize a dog properly within this window. Maybe your dog was very sick as a puppy and your vet recommended that you keep them inside and away from other dogs. Or perhaps you rescued her at an older age and she just never got a good opportunity to socialize before.
Whatever the reason your dog wasn’t socialized as a puppy, it doesn’t mean he has to be relegated to a life without dog friends or free play with others. Below you’ll find several tips on how to socialize adult dogs.
Walk your dog daily — and introduce them to other dogs
Dog walks are great opportunities for your four-legged friend to see and possibly meet other dogs and people, as well as practice proper behavior when out and about.
Why? Well, for one reason, because you’re just bound to run into more social situations when you’re out on a walk than when you’re at home. But walks are also wonderful for socializing dogs because they’ll have less pent-up energy due to the exercise and should be calmer and more submissive.
Remember not to pull back on the leash or yell at your dog if they bark or otherwise act up, because this increases their excitement level, makes the experience negative, and makes them associate that feeling with other dogs.
Instead, maintain calm-assertive energy and distract them with a correction, whether it’s a sound you’ve trained them with, a quick tug of the leash sideways, or touch. When all else fails, you can always calmly walk away.
Use a muzzle when other dogs are coming over
If you know that your dog barks or growls at other dogs, it can help the experience to use a muzzle.
Obviously, this prevents the danger of biting or attacking, but it can also make both dogs calmer so they’ll be more receptive to meeting and have a more positive experience. Cesar recommends the Funny Muzzle because its amusing appearance goes a long way towards making other owners calm as well.
Safely expose your dog to different social activities
Don’t rush things, but if you can introduce your dog to one new activity a week, it will go a long way towards helping them socialize and remain calm and well-behaved. Using a leash and muzzle helps in this regard, as does making your dog an observer at first.
For example, instead of just taking your unsocialized dog into a dog park and hoping for the best, you can expose them slowly by walking them around the outside of the fence and letting them see the dogs play and have fun.
How do you help your dog to become and stay socialized? Let us know in the comments!