How to Socialize My Dog, Pt. 1

It is essential for pet parents to play with their dogs in order to socialize them.
Photo by Tatiana Rodriguez on Unsplash

When you have a pet, you face numerous challenges in terms of healthcare or grooming. But often, the part for which you encounter the most trouble is behavior. In this regard, socialization is an important process your pet needs to go through, as many pet experts attribute behavioral disorders to a lack of socializing. When it comes to socializing, there are significant differences between dogs and cats. This week, we’re going to look into dogs first.

The method of socialization depends on the dog’s age

For dogs, it is ideal to start the socialization process at 3 to 14 weeks of age. This period is called the “sensitive period.” It's a stage in which dogs become used to their surroundings and mentally prepare for communication and interaction. Socialization is not impossible beyond this stage, but methods likely vary and typically take more effort and time.

Puppy: Exposure to various environments

  • Getting familiar with the environment: Dogs need exposure to people, sounds, and other animals living in their environment. To familiarize dogs with physical interactions, you should pet, hug, and touch them frequently and allow them to interact with many other people. It’s also important to have exposure to various sounds around their environment and to interact with many other pets in order to understand that these exchanges are not dangerous.
  • Aggression training: Some pet parents often use tug toys with their pets in order to bond with them. However, dogs frequently can’t tell the difference between tug toys and human hands. They may mistake anything that moves for a tug toy and bite if it moves. If they do, immediately respond with a firm "No!" and end the play time by distancing yourself. If aggressive behavior is displayed, it is necessary to discipline them through distancing.
  • Establishing boundaries: Teach dogs how to share everything from food bowls to other dogs' toys. To correct possessive behavior, pet dogs and touch the kibble while they eat.  If dogs show aggressiveness when other dogs play with their toys, discipline them accordingly.

  • Adolescent, Adult dog: Eliminating Social Anxiety

    Dogs that have missed early socialization may be wary of other pets and display aggressive behavior. They may even attack in the worst-case scenario. Therefore, it's critical to have them gradually lower their guard. One method is slowly introducing other pets into your home one at a time and allowing plenty of time for interactions with your dog.

    If you are outside and there are other dogs around, first let your dog observe them from a safe distance. Then, if your dog shows interest, slowly walk him/her closer to the other dog; if your dog shows agitation, immediately maintain a safe distance. In this training, reward and discipline is crucial. (Make sure to only proceed this training with the consent of the other dog’s owner! You must also be able to keep your dog under control in the event of unexpected behavior.)

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