It’s your golden retriever’s world and we’re just living in it—but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to learn good manners. Make sure your dog is a well-adjusted, upstanding member of the community with the following steps.
How to Socialise Your Dog with Humans
Daily Walks Are Key
Just taking your dog out to a public place and walking around will help him become more comfortable with the world and people around him. From cars driving down the street to the postman, the world becomes a little bit less scary once you’ve been out and about a couple of times.
Keep the little fella on a short lead and get some exercise—there’s a lot to see and smell. Take different routes, to give your dog the chance to meet new friends and experience a 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 acclimatised 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 social calendar and make time for meet-and-greets.
- Stay calm and confident if your dog acts scared. Don’t push, but don’t make a big deal out of skittish behaviour, either.
- Ensure that people pat your dog where their hands can be seen, like on your dog’s chest or chin.
- Use treats to give your dog a positive association with new people and experiences.
- Go back to the basics. A canine who is confident with their training and routine makes for a well-rounded dog.
Between 3 and 12 weeks of age is the sweet spot for socialising a puppy. Check out certified trainer Shoshi Parks’ handy checklist of experiences your pup should be exposed to during this crucial window of time, available here.
Typically, new puppies should be exposed to:
- Unfamiliar people
- Unfamiliar clothing (hoods, jackets, sunglasses, hats)
- Body handling (ears, paws, tail, and so on)
- Urban environments
- Parks, bodies of water, woods, and beaches
- Different types of flooring and ground surfaces
- Common neighbourhood objects like street signs, bicycles, buggies, skateboards, benches
- Other dogs
Beyond 18 weeks (about four months) it becomes a lot more difficult to socialise a dog—though not impossible! Don’t be dismayed if you have an older dog, because you can teach an old dog new tricks. If you need to socialise an older rescue dog, this article provides plenty of great tips on how to do it.
A little boot camp action never hurt anyone—or puppy school, for that matter. Ask your vet about local dog socialising opportunities 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 Socialise Your Dog with Other Dogs
Stock up on Treats
Most dogs will do anything for a treat, so it’s great to have a stash on hand to keep your dog on his best behaviour. 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 behaviour.
Tasty, high-value treats will get more mileage—but you’ll know your dog’s preferences best. Bits of cooked chicken, or small pieces of a hardboiled egg are typically very popular with dogs. 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. If you’re confident about recall, try an off-lead park, or set up a playdate at a friend’s place with their dog.
If you’re short on biodegradable poop bags or that doggy shampoo that smells so good, hit the pet shop with your dog in tow to check out the goings-on. He might just make a new friend! You’re also likely to meet other dog people in your area, which can set the stage for puppy meet ups later on.
Follow Your Dog’s Cues
Make sure interactions are long enough to get acquainted, but not so long as to wear your dog 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 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