Adopting a dog is the beginning of an amazing journey. Having a four-legged (or less) companion presents several health benefits. Dogs reduce stress and anxiety, improve mental health, and encourage an active lifestyle.
If this is your first dog, you probably want to know more about how to socialize your dog with humans.
Here are five tips you can use in your socialization training efforts.
If you have the chance, it’s a good idea to start socializing your dog with people when he or she is young. Start by having friends or family visit your home so that they can interact with your dog. If you plan on public outings, wait until after the first vaccines to ensure immune function. After the first couple of months of life, it’s time to start exposing your dog to people.
Visit a dog park, take your dog for short walks around the neighborhood, or take him/her with you to the pet store. As the dog gets used to people being near, turn the walks into hikes and other dog-friendly activities.
Of course, if you have adopted an older dog, it’s never too late to start socializing them with other people.
Reward Good Behavior
Don’t rush or force socialization if your dog isn’t feeling up to it, but continue to make an effort. When you’re on an outing and your dog is friendly towards people (or at least casual), reward him/her. Give the dog treats, pet him or her, and tell the dog out loud that they did a good job. Positive reinforcement goes a long way when training an animal, so be sure to do so whenever possible.
The more you reward your dog for good behavior, the more likely it is that the behavior will become a habit.
Don’t react too negatively when the outing doesn’t go well. A firm “no” is usually enough to stop the behavior you don’t want to encourage. Don’t shout or get angry. Socializing might be brand-new for your dog and he or she is trying to learn. Remember, there is always next time.
Take Safety Measures
If you’re trying to socialize a large, excitable, or anxious dog with humans, it’s wise to take safety measures. You don’t want your dog to overpower you by pulling too hard on its leash. It’s important that you’re the one in control, and a dog harness is a great tool for controlling excited or anxious dogs. Several harnesses on the market prevent pulling, and they come in different sizes and colors. There’s even a no-pull harness with skull designs on it, just in time for Spooky Season.
Also, you can attach warning tags to the harness to let other people know how to approach your dog.
Try Different Exercises
Knowing how to socialize your dog with humans involves preparing for different situations. Walking your dog in the park is great, but it’s important to try different exercises. This way, you can make sure your dog is ready for anything.
For example, you might want to train your dog to be well-behaved when he or she has food or a toy nearby. Carefully get the dog used to having people stand by his toys or food bowl. This way, your dog will not develop food aggression or resource-guarding behavior.
Don’t make the dog anxious, but try introducing him/her to things that are a little different from the last outing. You might try slightly more crowded areas, areas with more noise, or areas with more dogs around.
Know Your Dog
While dogs are usually social creatures by nature, each dog is an individual. Like humans, some dogs are not as social as others. Like humans, some dogs are more anxious around people than other dogs.
It’s a good idea to encourage your dog to get used to people. However, if you have a particularly anxious dog, socializing may take more time and effort. Improvement is always possible, and understanding your dog will help you both progress.
Don’t force the training. Take your time and enjoy the trusting relationship you’ve developed with this animal. In time, and with effort, socialization will come naturally.
As time passes and you get more familiar with your dog, you might be able to alter your training to fit him or her. Follow the cues your dog is giving you and give yourselves the opportunity to learn from each other. Your dog will have likes and dislikes along the way, but cooperation can help you overcome them together.
Rover.com, AnimalHumanSociety.org, Dogtopia.com, iHeart.org