By Ali, Oct 16 2014 01:00PM
Socialization is an important process for dogs of all ages. Whether you're bringing home an impressionable 8 week old puppy or a slightly nervous adult dog, socialization should be a top priority.
Socializing your puppy or dog should include a broad range of experiences This means exposing your dog to other people, animals and places.
Socialization with other people is easy! Inform guests about your new addition and leave a bowl of treats on the front porch. Ask guest to grab one to give your pup when they enter your house. Puppies and adult dogs alike will benefit from the constant reinforcement that people are wonderful creatures that bring yummy treats.
Young puppies should be willing to accept new people that are presented in this type of positive manner. Make sure you include all types of people - tall, short, male, female, young, old, with beards, wearing hats, etc.
If your young job shows any fear or apprehension, ask your guest to sit down (less threatening) and you, the owner, praise him when he approaches your guest. If he fully approaches your guest, reward him with a treat!
With older dogs, some people are afraid that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". This couldn't be farther from the truth. While an adult dog may not be as willing to accept new experiences as a puppy, gentle encouragement and rewards will still do wonders.
Take for example my rescue dog Parker. He was found under a bush and very timid. He spent his first few months hiding under our coffee table when anyone new would enter the house. slowly but surely he made progress. Once guests entered the house and settled in, he would come out and approach people sitting on the couch. I always softly praised him or let our guest give him treats. Fast forward 7 years, he's extremely well adjusted and easily approaches new guests in my home! In fact, I've almost forgotten about his timid start because he's so outgoing. Now he acts like guests are here just to see him!
The key to socialization is to keep the experiences positive. Never force your puppy or dog to interact with people if he is shy or fearful. With the right encouragement, you'll be able to take baby steps towards acclimating him to that particular person or experience.
Even with the best socialization, some dogs will have quirks! After all, they have individual personalities just like people, so don't be discouraged if your dog just always seems a little wary of people in hats. The key is that you've identified this quirk so you can also mitigate the problem.
And, puppy owners take note, socialization should be a LIFETIME process. Often times new pet owners will dedicate a lot of time to socialization in the first few months but become more relaxed in this area as time passes. A well socialized puppy can easily become an unsocialized dog if he's kept at home and only interacts with family members during adulthood.
During the first year of life, aim for socialization exercises at least every other day! Into adultood, try to plan a socialization activity each week. Socialization activities can be fun for humans too! Try taking a walk in a new place, a shopping trip to a dog friendly store or lunch at a restaurant with a dog friendly patio dining area!