Socializing Your Adult Dog
Socialization does not end after puppyhood. While it is ideal for the foundation for acceptable behavior to be laid early on (pups are most adaptable between three and twelve weeks of age), continuous encouragement and reinforcement is a must. But what if you were lax in the socialization department when Bella was a baby, or you adopted Angus when he was four years old… is it too late for them to learn? Absolutely not! Most canine behaviors can be positively impacted with effort, time and – most importantly – patience.
Just as socialization among humans is important, teaching us how to get along with others, it is also vital for your canine companion. Proper socialization teaches her how to respond in a healthy way to things that may make her anxious or afraid, such as people, other animals, noises and objects. Help your adult dog become confident and friendly with the following exercises.
Your family is your dog’s pack; the group with whom she will spend most of her time. The safer and more comfortable your dog feels at home, the less fearful and anxious she will be. When welcoming a new, adult dog to your pack, keep attention and affection set at a slow yet consistent pace. You don’t want to overwhelm her or, on the other end of the spectrum, invite separation anxiety to develop. In the beginning, it’s better to have a slightly bored dog than one who is over-stimulated. Spend a few weeks to allow your furry friend to build a bond with her pack. In this time, do not introduce her to anyone outside her pack, or take her to any new places.
Introduce New People Slowly
Try to introduce your dog to only one new person each week. If your pooch is aggressive, it’s best to keep her on a leash during introductions, until she becomes familiar and settles down. On the other hand, when introducing a nervous or timid pooch, let her take her time approaching her new friend when she sees fit. Upon meeting, have the visitor speak in a happy, low tone and offer your pooch a treat, imprinting the interaction as a positive one.
Visit the Dog Park
It is important for your adult dog to develop a well-balanced behavior around other dogs; you don’t want her to be too ambivalent or too aggressive. After her first few weeks alone with her human pack, leash her up and take her to the local dog park. But… stay outside the fence, giving her an opportunity to smell the smells, see the sites, hear the sounds… get accustom to her surroundings. Each time a dog comes to the fence to check her out, give her verbal praise and a treat to make the experience a positive one. It may take just a few visits, or a dozen, but once you feel she is comfortable with her surroundings, and confident she will interact well, take her inside for some more personal interaction.
Enroll Her in Class
If your own training techniques fall short, or it seems your adult dog is just set in her ways, enlist a professional trainer to help. Not only an obedience class a great way to socialize her with other dogs and people, it will also teach you both learning commands that can make the socialization experience a more comfortable and successful one.