You've been working yourself to the bone taking care of your new canine companion: feeding him just the right foods, teaching him when and where to potty, and doing everything else you can think of to get him off to a good start. But there's one task that you might have overlooked: socializing your dog. Wondering what it is and how to socialize your dog?
What is Socialization?
Socialization is the process of acquainting your dog with the experiences he's likely to encounter while he lives with you. Proper socialization is crucial to your dog's future emotional health. By exposing him now to the people, dogs, places and situations he'll probably encounter during his lifetime, you'll teach him to deal with novel experiences calmly and view the world as a good place to be.
"Thorough socialization helps to create a confident and well-rounded companion," says dog trainer and Petside blogger Victoria Schade of Annandale, Virginia.
How to Socialize Your Dog
Socializing your dog doesn't require you to cram his days and nights with social opportunities and experiences. Schade lists five simple ways to help your dog become a happy, well-adjusted pet.
1. Safety First When You Socialize Your Dog
If your dog is a puppy, make sure that the other dogs he encounters are as nice as he is. "Taking your pup to a well-run puppy play group filled with pups of a similar age and size is a fantastic and safe way to begin the socialization process," says Schade. "That said, neighborhood dog parks aren't the same thing as a play group, and should be avoided until your pup is older."
2. Let Your Puppy Take the Lead When You Socialize Your Dog
Schade recommends that you let your puppy set the pace during doggie meet-and-greets; if you do otherwise, you might set him up for a bad or even traumatic experience.
"Don't force your pup to make contact with a person or dog if he looks nervous," advises Schade, "and don't be pushed by someone who insists 'it's OK, all dogs love me!'"
3. How To Socialize Your Dog: Vary Your Pup's Experiences
Meeting other dogs is a crucial part of the socialization process, but "don't forget about sounds, smells and textures," says Schade.
For example, if your floors are carpeted, try bringing your puppy to a location that has slick floors, and help him get comfortable with them. If your house lacks stairs, bring your little darling to a home that has some, and help him learn to use them. Let him hear the sound of a baby crying, children squealing, and car horns blaring. All these experiences will help your puppy learn that the world is an interesting place.
4. When You Socialize Your Dog, Be Sure You And Your Dog Enjoy Yourselves.
There's no need to be compulsive about socialization: just do as much as you reasonably can to provide your puppy with interesting new experiences - not only during puppyhood but throughout his entire lifetime.
"Socialization is a muscle that needs to be flexed throughout your dog's entire life," says Schade.
5. Sometimes, Less is More
Sometimes, when you go to socialize your dog, there can be too much of a good thing.
Says Schade, "If your pup is overtired and punchy, it's best to call it a day."
Looking for other tips on how to socialize your dog? Check out our video on socializing your new puppy!