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How to socialize a 6month old dog?

asked 2016-07-19 21:10:09 -0500

My puppy is six months old, and every time we take him out for a walk, he would bark and lunge at other dogs. He wasn't like this before, only started when another dog started barking and charging at him on a walk before, so I think he may be scared of other dogs or something. Walking around to avoid other dogs won't help him stop barking at them, and sometimes even when we do go around, he lunges at the dog across the street. He also refuses to listen or accept treats when he spots another dog. He's relatively fine with humans, but also starts barking when they get to close.

Is there a way to get him to get used to dogs and people and not be scared of them? I don't think suddenly taking him to a crowded area will be a good idea (he'll bark until everyones' eardrums break). And he usually doesn't bark if we pick him up. I'm considering of trying to get him used to people and dogs while in my arms since he's calmest that way but I don't know if that's a good way to do it.

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You can also have him meet dogs thru a fence. For example when you go to dog park, walk around the outside first. That way its a controlled meet. Many issues a puppy has will get worked out but only if you reward good behavior not bad. Petting or holding to avoid a scene is not it.

Serina R.'s profile imageSerina R. ( 2016-08-10 06:34:47 -0500 )edit

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answered 2016-07-21 19:18:24 -0500

I would recommend you try gradual desensitization. When the other dog is still far away, before your dog starts barking (even before he notices the other dog, if possible), give praise and treats. Waiting until he is already reacting is like you being scared out of your gourd or other strong negative emotion, and someone offers you a piece of cake. You're so wound up, eating is NOT on your agenda. :-D. For as long as your dog is not upset, keep praising and treating. If he does start lunging and barking, don't say anything (getting upset with him is like you joining in) and keep walking at a normal pace and ignore the other dog. Eventually your dog should get the hint.

I also suggest you start the "no free lunch" program. Ask him to sit (or some other task) before he is petted, fed, let outside, let inside, etc. Whatever he wants, he has to "work" for it. That will help cement in his mind that you are the "leader," and will help him feel more comfortable.

Consulting a trainer is a good idea, but I have a feeling you would need private sessions, at least at first. A group obedience class would be too overwhelming for him.

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answered 2016-07-24 00:46:44 -0500

The best way is to invite puppies his age over to your house. Your place will be a much more controlled environment than a dog park where you can't control interactions as much. Of course you'll need a http://www.petplaygrounds.com (fenced in yard) to do this.

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answered 2016-07-20 08:46:03 -0500

Hi Jennifer: I don't know where you are from, but where I am in SE Wisconsin, our local Human Society and Petco stores have dog training classes of different varieties - one that is specifically focused on socialization. I think it could not only be good for your dog, but also for you as you can meet other pet parents that are going through a similar situation ...and you get to pick the brain of the instructor!

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answered 2016-07-19 22:58:26 -0500

You should find a trainer in your area with a good reputation. There are too many variables to give an answer. Is he barking because of his breed? Was he socialized with other dogs at 3-4 months old? Did he spend 8 weeks with his litter mates?

Often this stuff has more to do with you than the dog. For example, picking him up when he barks (or, socializing him in your arms) is only reinforcing the wrong things, transmitting anxiety.

You mentioned that it started when other dogs acted aggressively toward him (in his eyes, toward you too). I've seen that happen before (to a similarly-aged adolescent). I think the dog looks to you as the leader -- and suddenly you didn't act like a leader. Instead, you probably said "it's ok, those were terrible dogs, I hate owners who don't mind their doggy manners." All he hears is "blah, blah, blah" in a weak tone. You might have felt assaulted too -- and he would have sensed that. Now he's taken the role of leader, protecting him and you against these threats in his emerging adult world.

Working on obedience can help establish that you're the leader and he should trust you to protect him, limit his behavior, etc. But, I think you'll have better luck with a local trainer who understands psychology (not just teaching sit/stay), and can observe how you relate to your dog. There's probably more going on if you're seriously considering strolling him around in your arms to avoid his bad behavior.

It's good that you're addressing this at a young age. If you're inadvertently reinforcing the problem, it can become very severe as he matures.

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I don't think they need a full on trainer, but yes I completely agree with rewading bad behavior. If he barks and you pet him....?! You just told him good job for being aggressive to another dog! Definitely need to ignore bad behavior.

Serina R.'s profile imageSerina R. ( 2016-08-10 06:32:43 -0500 )edit

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