By Suzanne Alicie
While some people prefer their dogs to be protective and guard their home and family, most of us would like our family pets to be social and people friendly. It can be a hassle and even frightening to worry about what your dog may do when someone comes to visit. It’s easier to socialize younger dogs, but even older dogs with consistent training and stability can learn to be social.
The key to socializing your dog is of course to have the dog in social situations. When dealing with a puppy, it’s important to introduce them to many people and other dogs. Visit the dog park, have doggie play dates and let your dog get comfortable in crowds. If you have an older dog that isn’t socialized very well, make sure that you take precautions before you take him into a social setting. You may want to muzzle your dog so he isn’t able to bite anyone or any other dog, and introduce him socially a little bit at a time.
Talking to your dog, soothing him and easing him into social activities with people and dogs will go a long way toward calming the dog and making the social aspect easier for him to accept. If you’re nervous and anxious about all the ways that introducing your dog socially could go wrong, your dog will pick up on that too. Maintain a calm demeanor and let your dog know that it is okay.
If your dog cowers or behaves as if he’s frightened of other dogs or people, let him get used to them from a distance before approaching. Dogs are curious and once they’ve become accustomed to different smells they will want to check out the other dogs and people around them; let your dog socialize on his own terms.
No matter how well socialized your dog is, there is always the possibility of a child or person stepping on your dog, playing too rough or other situations where your dog may become frightened or get hurt and he may snap or bark at someone. When it comes to other dogs, it’s important to remember that dogs are territorial animals and if they feel threatened or feel that their family or home is threatened in any way they may become aggressive. Always supervise your dog in any sort of social situation.
Having a social dog outdoors is one thing, but having a dog who welcomes various people and even other dogs into your home takes a bit more work. Some dogs are friendly and outgoing to begin with, but others will need to learn to share their home turf, adjust to the fact that visitors may be loud and gregarious and may possibly have children. Evaluate your guests and your dog before allowing the dog to have the run of the house while you have company.
Our dog Bear wasn’t socialized as a puppy, and it took her quite a while to warm up to her family. These days she’s part of the family and wherever her people are she wants to be too, but she’s still nervous around strangers. With teenagers in the house, you can imagine that there are various people in and out all the time; she barks and races to the door each time. Sometimes she sounds quite vicious, but once a family member lets the person in and tells her it’s okay she gives them a good sniff and goes about her business. So she acts as guard dog and family member, but we know her well enough to know that social situations with a lot of people make her nervous. We also know that she’s not relaxed enough to handle being around other dogs, and that she sees cats as alien invaders when they walk across the yard. Knowing your dog and what your dog can handle is the best way to make sure that your dog is people friendly and social.
Photo by Herry Lawford
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