Dogs are social animals and can learn to relate with humans and other members of their pack if they are trained. Socializing can be done at different life stages but it is most important at puppyhood. Dogs can be exposed to a variety of sounds, smells, sights, and sensations without being afraid between the age brackets of 3-20 weeks old. Thus, the window period is the perfect time to socialize your dog.
SOCIALIZING IN PUPPY
- Let your puppy be handled and cuddled by different people. Preferably, every member of your home.
- Introduce your puppy to different sounds and let it acclimatize to it. Sounds like a phone ringing, radios playing, TV sounds, moving vehicles, etc.
- Teach your puppy to feel comfortable when people come near its feeding bowl. Regularly walk up to it while eating, add a treat to the bowl, and walk away. This prevents resource guarding seen in dogs who attempt to attack when interrupted during meals.
- Train your puppy to be alone. This helps to prevent developing separation anxiety and it can be achieved by leaving it alone once in a while till it gets used to it.
- Prevent your puppies from biting by providing appropriate toys. When puppies are teething, they are eager to use their teeth and will bite at any available objects.
SOCIALIZING IN ADOLESCENT DOG
- Keep introducing your dog to new people. This should be done at the dog’s pace and should not be forced.
- Introduce your dog to other dogs. You can achieve this by visiting a dog park, playgroups, or a date with a friend’s dog.
- Take your dog on a walk regularly. Try using different routes so it can get used to a new environment.
- Keep training your dog to be alone.
- Don’t punish fear. Dogs around 5 months old can interpret unfamiliar things as a threat and they respond by fleeing or attacking what frightens them. Don’t punish your dog for this act; rather remove it from the frightening environment. With time, you can teach your dog to replace their natural response to fright with another behaviour. E.g. Sit.
- Teach your dog to be comfortable with being touched at different parts of the body. This ensures smooth handling when there is an emergency or during check-ups at the vet.
By the time your dog is a year old, it will be used to coping with strangers, new environments, and comfortable around other dogs. If your dog is an adult already without a proper social lifestyle, you might need to consult a behaviourist to discuss the best ways to socialize it.