What does “socialization” really mean? This idea can be very different from person to person. For some it means going out to a loud bar and talking to everyone they encounter, compared to others who would prefer to stay in and watch a movie with a friend. Dogs are no different. Some like the dog park where they can run around with new dogs, while others would rather go on a walk or play with their people. So, just like any other facet of raising a dog properly, when it comes to socialization, it’s always important to remember: not all dogs are alike. Since there are a wide range of socialization preferences, you should take time to observe your dog’s body language and learn what they would prefer in different social settings to better understand them personally.
In addition to each dog’s individual personality, socialization looks different for every stage of the dog’s life. These variations considered, what needs to remain consistent with all dogs, is a calm relationship between dog and its person.
When it comes to dogs, ‘socialization’ should really just be exposure to new people, places, other dogs and everything in between.
Many people think of socialization as allowing their dog to walk around and explore the world at their own pace. Their owners walk holding the end of the leash while their puppy dictates when and where they go. Tracking every scent, pulling for every dog or person they encounter or even spooking themselves when they discover something for the first time. By allowing these behaviors at a young age, you are conditioning your puppy to become distracted and overly excited on walks.
At this stage, puppies are normally all over the place and need the owner to give them clear direction and teach them social skills. Yes, exposing your puppy to tons of newness is so important when it comes to raising a sound, confident dog. However, there are best practices when you are exposing your new puppy to the world. Done in the wrong way, you might be making things harder for yourself and your dog in the long run.
Our biggest goal at this stage, is to expose your puppy to tons of newness. This ensures they are not fearful or unable to handle new experiences. So getting them around lots of people, dogs, different surfaces and sounds should be your main focus for your pup. Before we go any further, it is important to be aware of your dog’s mindset and energy level during this process. If your dog is overly excited and you allow them to run up on another dog or person, they are learning to get overly excited when they see these outside triggers. This can result in an adult dog becoming overstimulated to the sight of new dogs or even guests coming into the house. The same can be said for dogs that react negatively to a new sound, walking on a strange surface for the first time or even jumping in a car.
We are not saying that you should not let your dog say hi to other dogs or people. We are advocating that your dog should do this under your permission and with a balanced mindset, instead of pulling at the end of the leash with a heightened level of energy.
You might have many questions as you begin to socialize your pup. Like…When is an appropriate time to let your puppy “say hi” to other dogs?
It can be very helpful to find reputable trainers that offer puppy classes. These classes should consist of teaching your dog how to play with other dogs, introducing new surfaces, noises and people all while under supervision. The trainer present should be able to answer all of your questions regarding puppy “do’s and don'ts”.Training centers are great places to start because they are controlled environments where your puppy can learn and grow up into a well-mannered adult.
Adolescence and Adulthood
As your dog matures expect new social behaviors.
The most important part of my and my dogs relationship is maintaining calm and focus when asked. If I allow my dogs to get over excited on leash, it will only result in unruly distracted dogs. Also, dogs can act very different on leash than they do off. A leash restricts a dog from moving as it naturally would when greeting another dog or, if the dog is uncomfortable, the leash does not allow it to remove itself from the situation. All this can cause immediate frustration and may result in a fight.
So, how can you properly socialize your dog?
By simply going on walks! Walking is one of the most natural things a dog can do. Go on pack walks with your friends’ dogs! Find the right friends for your dog. Look for a dog that matches your dog’s energy and has a respectful relationship with its owner.
Also, remember that reputable trainer? See if they have a controlled day care program or a group class. That way your dog is exposed to other well behaved, trained dogs. This is to ensure that your dog always has a positive experience around other dogs.
Remember, socialization does not mean that your dog needs to interact with every human and dog. It can simply mean, being around people and dogs while staying calm and relaxed!