How to Socialize an Adult Dog and Why It’s Never Too Late

Even in dog years, age is nothing but a number! Get the scoop on how to socialize an adult dog and why it’s never too late to do so.

two dog buddies

At Hounds Lounge, we believe you can teach an old(er) dog new tricks, including socialization. Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to socialize an adult dog. We see it happen all the time!

If you think your dog might need to be socialized, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn how to help your dog make furriends, both canine and hooman. You’ll learn that dog socialization is not only good for Fido, but it’s grrreat for your peace of mind, too!

What is dog socialization?

Dog socialization is the process of making your pooch feel comfurrtable in the presence of other dogs, around new people, and in unfamiliar environments and situations. Socialization is all about gaining experiences. Understanding the world around them helps your dog live a happier, more relaxed life.

Pool pup

It’s easiest to socialize puppies, because they are fearless and curious. Everything is new to them. They haven’t yet developed any negative feelings toward people, places or pets. While it’s slightly more challenging to socialize older dogs, it’s still very achievable! 

Does my dog need to be socialized?

Not all dogs experience the luxury of getting socialized as puppies. Furrr example, many woofs are adopted well after their puppy days, entering their new homes without proper socialization. In fact, this was the case for many of our Hounds Lounge pack members, rescues who are now shining examples of how to socialize an adult dog!

Other times, the opportunity for socialization is simply out of our paws and hands. The recent lockdown prevented many young pups from gaining new experiences in the world.

Whatever the circumstances, some dogs miss the ideal time frame for socialization, which is seven weeks to four months. Some dogs learn a few lessons in socialization, and they simply don’t stick. (You will soon learn that repetition is key!) Some dogs have social skills but lose them due to isolation. (Continuation is also key!)

Here are some telltail signs that your adult dog needs to be socialized, courtesy of Hill’s:

  • They’re fearful or aggressive around people or other animals
  • They back up or raise their hackles (hair on the back) when you or another person approaches
  • They’re nervous when out on walks
  • They’re shy around other dogs or people
  • They can get overly excited and cause anxiety in other pets or people

If your dog is showing any of these behaviors, it’s time to start socializing! While the process might seem intimidating, it will ultimately be a rewarding bonding experience for you and your fur child. Now, let’s dig into how to socialize an adult dog.

Dog relaxing

How to Socialize An Adult Dog

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.

very happy dog

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!

three dog friends

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.

Human and pooch

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.

lots of pups

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.

Step 5: Visit Dog Parks

Once you are confident your dog can get social in controlled environments, you can head to the dog park. But, not so fast. On your first visit, don’t go inside the fence. Keep your dog on their leash and simply show them what’s going on at the park. If your dog acts comfortable, you can venture inside the fence on your next visit – but keep them on the leash until you’re confident they feel relaxed.

Don’t forget to reward their good behavior with treats!

piggyback dogs

Step 6: Attend Doggie Daycare

The final step of socialization is a huge one: attending doggie daycare. After training to be a social butterfly, this is where your pooch can show off their skills. At Hounds Lounge, we offer cage-free group play in 5,000+ sq. ft. indoor/outdoor play yards. Your woof can finally unleash the pack animal they were born to be!

lounging dogs

When your dog has reached this level, you can feel confident dropping them off at daycare. Know that the dog-lovin’ staff will take great care of your fur child (and give them tasty treats)! You can learn all about your woof’s first day of doggie daycare here.

Once your dog is fully socialized, you want to keep them that way! Maintain their socialization by attending doggie daycare on a regular basis, going for lots of walks and scheduling plenty of playdates with pooches and peeps. 

dynamic duo

4 Benefits of Socializing Your Adult Dog

It’s obvious that socializing your adult dog will improve their life tremendously! They will be happier, more comfortable and more relaxed every day of their life. That’s doggone important. However, there are a few more benefits that you might not have considered.

1. You Get Peace of Mind

It feels good to know that your dog will behave around children, strangers and other pets. The chances of them running away due to discomfort are much, much lower than if they were not socialized.

2. You Can Grow the Family

If your dog is socialized, it’s much easier to add another dog or any type of pet to the family. Even more importantly, it’s also much easier to add children to the family!

dog siblings

3. You Create Best Furriends Furrever

Dogs can depend on each other, and they often need each other. If your dog is socialized and you are able to add another pooch to the family, you could create a bond that lasts for both of their lives. This type of bond is not only sweet but also practical. If one dog gets older and begins to lose some of their senses, the younger dog can be their guide through day-to-day activities.

dog cuddles

3. You Get to Pawty

Want to host a party at your house? You can! And, as long as they feel like it, your dog can partake in all the action.

hawaiian frenchie

Ready to Socialize Your Dog?

It’s never too late to socialize an adult dog. If your woof lacks experience in the world, take them outside and get started today. We wish you the best of luck and, when your pooch is ready, we’d love to see them at Hounds Lounge for doggie daycare!

dogs playing