Socialisation offers many benefits to your dog (and to you), and one of the most important is how to behave well when surrounded by unfamiliar things, people, and dogs or other animals in various settings.
And just like dog training, socialising your dog requires a lot of patience and effort too! To help you plan and spice up your social outings with your dog, here are some of the best ways to socialise your dog.
Best Ways to Socialise Your Dog
Introduce them to other people, things, and places
To get them used to the idea of people, who are a different species from them, expose them to a variety of people, including men, women, and children. Let them interact with other people so they can learn that people can be different without those differences being bad. For example, a dog who only has adults at home or in the neighbourhood might suddenly be alarmed at little kids or babies. You don’t want this if you want to be able to take your dog anywhere.
Expose them to different things and let them explore other places too! Help your dog settle whenever they’re in a new environment. Introduce them to new, unexpected, and unique things.
There are a handful of things your pup needs to be aware of, and here are some of the most common ones:
- Dogs of the same size, and smaller and bigger dogs
- People of different haircuts, hair colours, and people of all sizes and ages, too (babies, toddlers, elders with canes or walkers or in wheelchairs)
- Various pieces of clothing (hoods, jackets, glasses and sunglasses, hats)
- Body handling (ears, paws, tail, and other body parts)
- Busy places, quiet places, indoor and outdoor areas
- Parks, beaches, and forests
- Different kinds of flooring and terrain
- Street signs, bicycles, strollers, skateboards, and benches
- Cats and other animals
Consider every experience you have with your dog as an opportunity to give them positive association with this new, unfamiliar, unique world you brought to them. Expose them to as many various kinds of people, environments, sounds, and textures as you can. Here are some ways you can start with.
Go for a walk
You and your dog can meet new people and learn more about your neighbourhood every time you walk around the area. Discovering new environments helps your dog develop socially and increases friendliness rather than fostering anxiety.
Simply taking your dog on a stroll in a public area helps them become familiar to the surroundings and the people. Once you've gone around the block or two times, everything—from automobiles speeding down the street to the mailman—becomes a little less terrifying for them.
Let other people pet them
Your dog, especially when they're a puppy, should be cuddled and petted daily by different people. Just make sure that all interactions with them are kind and gentle. Hold your puppy in various positions while gently touching their feet, massaging their back and sides, and checking out their ears.
Let other people pet them too. When others pet your dog, make sure they do so where their hands are visible, like on your dog's chest or chin.
Introduce them to other dogs
It's important for your dog to interact with other dogs. It allows them to communicate with their own kind, help them build their self-esteem, and remind them of who they are.
Your dog will feel more secure around their own kind and develop a greater level of trust with other dogs, which will help to lessen any territorial behaviour they might show toward them. Here are the most common ways to let them interact with other dogs.
Take them to dog parks
Allow your energetic buddy to make the rounds around the park and have a lap. Dog park goers usually interact with their dogs in a friendly manner and are interested in hanging out.
After being away from you for a day, allowing your dog to play with other dogs in a safe environment can help to reduce their anxiety and stress. It can also help your dog get used to being in public places and interacting with other people.
Take them with you to pet shops
Although most owners don't usually bring their dogs to the pet store, many do, at least occasionally, so there is definitely a chance to interact with other owners and their pets.
If you need any dog supplies, take your dog with you to the store to see what's going on. They might meet a new pal! Also, you might run into other dog lovers in your neighbourhood, which could pave the way for future dog playdates.
Enrol them in dog classes
Another fantastic opportunity to meet new dogs and people in a safe environment is dog training classes. Your dog will meet other dog owners and puppies at obedience classes and other dog training workshops.
A little boot camp exercise or puppy kindergarten is helpful. Ask your veterinarian about dog socialisation opportunities in the area that might be suitable for you and your pet.
Let them hear new sounds
Allow your dog to hear a variety of household noises, including those made by the vacuum, lawnmower, hair dryer, dishwasher, and other appliances. If your house doesn’t get much traffic, play engine sounds from YouTube. Motorcycles, cars, car horns, trucks, trains. Let them hear it so they won’t be spooked.
You can also try filling plastic bags with air and popping them near your dog. This is training done for K9 puppies so they wouldn’t be spooked by loud noises like slamming doors and gunshots. (Although this still doesn’t work for firecrackers or loud thunderstorms).
Your dog can become more at ease with unfamiliar sounds, frequently ones that are loud and unexpected, thanks to these sensory encounters.
Teach them to eat with other people around
Teach your puppy to be around people when they're eating from their bowl. This helps prevent resource guarding, which happens when dogs become scared when someone approaches their valuable resources: their food or toys.
While your dog is eating, approach them, place a more appetising treat in their bowl, and then go. Repeat a couple of times during each meal until your puppy shows signs of excitement when you come near. Then approach, physically take up their dish, place a treat inside, return the dish to them, and go.
Dogs should never show aggression when eating, whether with you or other dogs. Try this next with other dogs. Feed them together and reward them with treats in each other’s bowls.
Tips When Socialising Your Dog
Your puppy is at their most receptive at a young age and will go through a socialisation phase during the first three months of life that will permanently influence their personality and how they respond to their environment as an adult dog.
Gently introducing them to a wide range of individuals, locations, and circumstances will make a significant, long-lasting effect on their personality.
The ideal time to socialise your puppy is between 3 and 12 weeks old. Socialising a dog after 18 weeks (about four months) is much more challenging, yet still achievable! If you have an older dog, don't be discouraged. You may need more patience but you can still teach them new tricks.
Patience is one of the most important things to learn when socialising your dog. It could take some time for your pet to learn all the new ideas, so try not to get impatient or upset. Because dogs can sense when their owners are upset, this can be challenging.
Remember, dogs read your energy. If you’re nervous or stressed, they pick up on that and tense up. So relax and be confident.
Given enough time and effort, you'll be amazed at the amount of development your dog can make!
Reward them for socialising
Since most dogs would do anything for a treat, keep a supply of treats on hand to ensure that your dog behaves well. Give your dog a treat whenever they interact with another dog successfully! This promotes positive social behaviour and they associate these experiences with happiness.
You'll get more mileage when you use tasty, valuable treats, and you'll be the greatest judge of your dog's tastes.
Involve other family members in socialisation
Your dog is constantly encouraged out of their comfort zone by getting involved with socialisation activities with other members of the family. Your dog will think that they can encounter something new regardless of who they are with.
Make it a fun game for children by asking them to make a list of all the new things your dog encountered that day while they were with them!
Gauge your dog’s mood before letting them socialise
When organising a meet and greet with other people or dogs, the first thing you want to check is how your dog is feeling. Don't force them if they are not in a good mood.
Additionally, learn to recognize the warning signs of discomfort that your dog shows, such as heavy breathing, a tail between the legs, or yawning.
But keep in mind that your pet will find it simpler to make new friends the more you encourage them to do so. Just keep in mind that you always have to accompany them, or have other members of your family go with your dog to monitor their behaviour and to prevent unwanted accidents, like unplanned pregnancy or road accidents.
And also, it’s important to diversify your dog's social life to help them become a well-rounded, confident dog who can handle anything that comes their way.