It’s your golden retriever’s world and we’re just living in it—but that doesn’t mean your buddy gets a free pass on being prim and proper. Make sure your dog is an upstanding canine citizen with the following steps.
How to Socialize Your Dog with Humans
Daily Walks Are Key
Just taking your dog out to a public place and walking around will help him grow more comfortable with the world and people around him. From cars driving down the street to the mailman, the world becomes a little bit less scary once you’ve been around the block a time or two.
Keep your buddy on a short leash and get your exercise on—there’s lots to see and plenty to smell. Take different routes, allowing your buddy the chance to meet new friends and experience a wide variety of sights.
Mix It Up
Expose your dog to a wide variety of people, from men and women to children, so he can get acclimated to the idea of people (who are much bigger). The idea is that if your dog only ever hangs out with one person, he may grow wary of anyone that isn’t that person, so it’s crucial to diversify your dog’s rolodex and make time for meet and greets. Pedigree has a useful list of socializing tips including:
- Don’t reward or praise your dog for being scared of people—this encourages skittish behavior.
- Ensure people pet your dog where their hands can be seen like their chest or chin.
- Go back to basics. A dog who is confident with their training and routine makes for a well-rounded pooch.
Between 3 and 12 weeks of age is the sweet spot for socializing a puppy. Beyond 18 weeks (about four months) it becomes a lot more difficult to socialize a dog. Check out the ASPCA’s handy checklist of experiences your pup should be exposed to during this crucial window of time, available here.
But don’t be dismayed if you have an older dog, because you can teach an old dog new tricks.
A little boot camp action never hurt anyone. Ask your vet about local classes that might be a good fit for you and your pet.
Dog training classes are also a great place to meet other dogs and people in a safe and controlled environment.
How to Socialize Your Dog with Other Dogs
Stock up on Treats
Most dogs will do anything for a treat, so it’s handy to have a stash of these to keep your dog on his best behavior. Anytime your dog has a successful interaction with another dog, what do you do? You guessed it—give ’em a treat! This encourages positive social behavior.
Tasty, high-value treats will get more mileage—my dog is crazy for these guys, but you’ll know your dog’s preferences best. Just adjust your dog’s calorie intake at mealtime to compensate for the extra calories at snack time.
Hit The Dog Park… or Pet Shop
Let your bright-eyed and bushy-tailed buddy have a lap around the park and make the rounds. If you’re confident about recall, try an off-leash park, or set up a playdate at a friend’s place with their dog.
Time Your Dog’s Social Life
Make sure interactions are long enough to get acquainted, but not so long as to wear your buddy out.
It’s just like you and your BFF: spend too much time together and you might start to notice things you never noticed before…for better or for worse.
Introducing a three pound Chihuahua to a Great Dane might sound adorable, but remember to exercise caution when introducing dogs.
Always make sure the the other party is friendly before facilitating a meet and sniff. Know the signs of discomfort in your dog (excessive panting, yawning, tail between the legs) and act accordingly.
Remember: practice makes perfect and the more successful interactions your dog has with his brethren, the easier it will get.
Top image via Flickr CC
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