According to Dr. Marty Pets, socializing an adult dog is more challenging than socializing a puppy because you aren’t starting with a blank slate. Older dogs are more hesitant to accept new experiences. To combat this obstacle, Dr. Marty recommends introducing potential triggers and then rewarding calm behavior with a mix of treats and praise.
Here’s our guide to socialize an adult dog:
Tip: Start Slow
The last thing you want to do is overwhelm your woof. Before you introduce a new pet, person or place, make sure your dog is feeling calm. In the early days of socialization, make sure your dog is in a controlled environment where you can jump in to help if needed. It’s useful for your dog to know commands such as “come,” so that you can get their attention in potentially stressful situations.
Tip: Stay Pawsitive
Be prepared to give your dog the praise and treats they deserve for good behavior. It’s not easy to break old habits! Getting social can be a little ruff on your pooch, so make sure they feel encouraged.
Step 1: Go for Walks
Walks are not only great for exercising but for socializing as well. Taking in all the sights, smells and sounds of the neighborhood is an important part of socialization. If you encounter a stressful situation, simply turn around and go home.
Don’t forget to bring treats to reward positive interactions with other dogs and hoomans!
Step 2: Introduce Your Dog to Another Adult Dog
If your dog hasn’t spent much time around other animals, it’s time to introduce them to a fellow canine. A good way to do this is through a familiar activity: walking.
Meet up with a friend and their dog for a nice, relaxed walk. Allow plenty of space between the two dogs. If your dog remains calm and polite, reward them with a treat!
When the walk is over and both dogs seem relaxed, allow them to sniff each other with their leashes still on. Reward positive interactions with a treat!
At this point, your dog might be done socializing for the day. However, if you’re both feeling good about the new furriend, you can go to a fenced-in area and try letting the dogs observe each other from a distance. If everyone keeps their cool, build up to interacting on leash, then off leash, rewarding good behavior with treats every step of the way.
If Fido has fun, continue having regular playdates with this dog, and make each one longer than the last!
Step 3: Introduce Your Dog to an Adult Human
Some dogs who are fearful of their own species are huge fans of hoomans. However, if that is not the case for your dog, you’ll want to get them on board with people. With treats, it’s simple.
Invite a friend over to your house and ask them to ignore your dog at first. If your dog remains calm, reward them with a treat. As the pair grows more comfortable with each other, allow your friend to give your dog a treat. Treats create an unbreakable bond… Soon, your friend will also be your dog’s friend.
The more friends, the merrier. Make sure to slowly continue introducing new people to your dog. Start with individuals, then you can work your way up to groups.
Step 4: Introduce Your Dog to Puppies and Children
If your dog can get along with adult dogs and hoomans, they are ready for exposure to puppies and children. You can follow the same steps as you did for adult dogs and humans, just keep in mind that the experience will be different.
Puppies are less predictable than adult dogs, so take the interactions slow and allow plenty of space between your dog and the little one. Make sure the puppies your dog meets are fully vaccinated. These playdates are a win-win, because they help your dog build social skills and they give the puppy a good impression of adult dogs.
Like puppies, children are less predictable than adults. Before you introduce your dog to a child, make sure everyone is calm and in a good mood. Supervise every move, and do not allow any touching or interacting until everyone has gotten comfortable with each other. Once again, treats are a must!
For everyone’s safety, it is extremely important that your dog behaves well around puppies and children. You want your dog to be one that parents of both fur and hooman babies can trust.