Wild dogs grow up in dog packs and become socialized virtually when they’re born. A dog interacts with others and learns body language and verbal cues. The pack has strong boundaries and the puppies soon understand the strong leaders of the pack or they simply get discarded.
Domestic dogs start to socialize when they’re in the litter and after coming into contact with people. That early socialization period lasts four to 12 weeks, during which a dog has social skills permanently imprinted and each interaction with people or dogs is a positive one.
Socialization generally continues on into a puppy’s adulthood. However, there are lots of new owners who adopt older dogs that didn’t become socialized in their early life.
When an owner brings home an adult dog, it’s essential to learn how much he has been socialized (or not). His early contact with you will be an indicator. Does he behave aggressively or is he fearful? Does he warn you with raised hackles or does he back off as you approach?
When you walk him, is he nervous around other sights and sounds? Is he shy when near other dogs and/or people? If you notice any of these signals, it’s probable that he wasn’t properly socialized. The good news is that you can do it for him.
Pointers for Socializing an adult or older dog with other dogs:
Take your dog out to observe.
• Visit a dog park but only sit or stand at the entrance. Don’t enter.
• Let him watch other dogs and see how they behave.
• Whenever a dog approaches you, give your dog a treat. This helps create a positive relationship with other canines.
• If your dog becomes aggressive when watching other dogs, move him away and once he is calm, slowly move back.
Resist tugging while walking.
While you’re taking him for a walk, another dog may cross his field of vision, so try to resist yelling and don’t jerk his lead. This will only create a negative experience. Distract your dog with a toy or yummy treat. Command him to watch you and praise him lavishly when he does.
Attend obedience class.
Dog obedience class is a terrific method for socializing your adult dog even before you have play dates and/or park visits. He’ll learn new commands and he’ll often be distracted. Talk to the trainer about the problem and she’ll assist you in making introductions to other dogs in that class in a slower manner. It’s also good because that’s a safe place to do it.
Socializing an adult dog with people.
Your family will be the first people to help your dog socialize. It must be done slowly and patiently. People and dogs speak different languages so you’ll both be in the same boat.
Ignore your dog.
If he runs and hides, don’t chase him and drag him out of his hiding place. Ignore him instead. Do something that will entice him to come out. Fry some bacon or play with his favorite toy. Dogs are naturally curious and social and you’ll find that he’ll quickly get bored from being alone and will come running. Give him a little bacon as a reward for coming out.
For example, if your teenager comes into the kitchen with a massive pimple on his nose, ignore it and pretend there’s nothing wrong. Act the same way with your dog; pretend his behavior isn’t a big deal and, that way, you’ll form a much calmer environment. If he dashes through your legs to greet the postman at the front door, don’t make a fuss.
Introduce your dog to new people SLOWLY.
Only introduce a single person to your dog per week. When they first meet your dog, ensure they have a pocket full of treats and give one to your dog while talking in a slow, happy, encouraging voice. Never use a high pitched voice because that will only get him excited. Your dog needs to be on his leash and don’t make him go near the new person. Allow him time to do so.
The key to socializing any adult dog is that each experience should be positive and good, using treats and praise to help it work the way you want. This isn’t the right time or place for corrections which only makes him feel more nervous. Eventually your new pet will finally relax and acknowledge his new home as well as outside environments, and he’ll finally be a treasured family member.
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