by Lauretta Williams
For owners whose dogs aren’t socialized properly, a mere walk down the road can become a very stressful activity, as the dog may bark excessively, growl, or even lunge at other dogs or humans out of fear.
The good news is, there are plenty of tools to help teach your pup how to socialize properly, so a play in the park becomes a positive experience — for you and him.
When dogs are puppies, an essential skill for them to learn is how to interact with other dogs. Many experts have actually likened the idea of not socializing your dog by sending a child straight to primary school without ever letting him interact with another child.
There are lots of puppy classes that you can enroll your pup in. It’s a safe and controlled environment where you and your pup will learn how to appropriately meet other dogs and how to teach your dog to act around humans. The great thing about puppy school is that your pup gets to play with other dogs in an unthreatening environment, all while learning how to behave properly. Learn through play isn’t just for kids after all.
Puppy classes will also teach you how to train your dog and interact with your dog while at home. This includes the correct commands to use, such as sit, down, and come, and how to positively reward your dog when he does what you ask.
Another tip is to start your personal training with your dog as soon as you bring him home and in a quiet environment. Your home is probably where he feels most safe and secure so is less likely to feel threatened, get distracted, or act out. Most puppies require the same basic training, from potty pad training and crate training, to obedience skills.
Get out and about
Learning how to socialize properly though doesn’t stop with puppy school. Regularly getting out and about with your puppy ensures he is getting experience with meeting and seeing other dogs and people.
The key here is though changing things up a bit. If you take your dog for a regular walk along the same route, he will become familiar with the other dogs and humans that are around.
While this is a great thing, it also may become detrimental if that is all they know, as he may start to fear animals and people that he doesn’t know. Walk a new route at least once a week, hold some playdates, or go to an unfamiliar park occasionally.
The consequences of not socializing
The main byproduct of not socializing your puppy properly is fear of, or aggression towards, other dogs and humans. Even with well-socialized dogs, these behavioral problems may occur. The difference is that if you have the skills to help your pup through the issues, it will be a lot easier to sort through them.
Aggressive behavior may include lunging at other dogs, excessive barking towards dogs or humans, growling, agitation, or even trying to get away because of fear. As your dog’s trusted human, the important thing is to never reinforce this behavior, instead use positive reinforcement, verbal commands, and hand signals to steer your pup in the right path. For example, never pull at your dog’s lead just because another dog is approaching.
This will create tensions in your dog’s eyes and in turn, confirm for your dog that other dogs are either something to be afraid of or something to attack. Rather than this, positive, reward-based training is usually the solution in these cases, by using treats to encourage good behavior.
Start at a young age
Socialization should start at a very young age. In fact, the critical age to put your pup through socialization training is between five and twelve weeks of age.
While you may be tempted to simply cuddle, pat, and play with your pup, during this time, exposing your dog to other dogs and humans is vital. Socializing your dog early means your walks and playtime in the park will be mostly stress-free, leaving you time to enjoy playing with your pup, rather than worrying about his behavior.