How to socialise your dog?
A sociable dog is a happy dog. It’s important your dog gets on well with humans and other animals whether they’re a puppy or adult.
Training should start when your dog is a puppy and within 12 months it should be a content sociable animal.
However, sometimes things don´t work out like this and your dog may be antisocial for a number of reasons. They may not be used to being with other dogs or people or have had a negative experience. Whatever the reason, it’s never too late to begin socialising your dog.
Key tips for socialising your dog
Not every dog will instantly become a confident loving pet. Some may have anxiety issues due to an event in the past or due to their personality. As a dog owner, it is up to you to teach your dog to socialise and behave.
Ideally your dog will have learned to socialise when it was a puppy, but if you have a rescue dog or adopt an older dog you may have to try some socialisation techniques.
Socialising your dog can be time-consuming, but essential and rewarding for a happy, balanced pet. Here are our top tips whether you want to learn how to socialise an adult dog or a puppy:
Go for regular walks
Dogs love to walk and explore. Plenty of exercise is also important for your dog and you. Depending on the size and breed of your dog it will need at least 2 walks a day.
A puppy needs walks to learn to socialise with other dogs and people. Taking a puppy out raises its awareness of the world and stops it being scared of certain situations – it will get used to traffic, different environments and strangers.
An adult dog needs plenty of walks for mental stimulation and to keep fit. It also needs to learn not to be aggressive towards other dogs or people.
Always follow the rules when you’re walking your dog, if they should be on a lead keep them restrained. When off the lead some dogs will happily sniff other dogs while others will show signs of aggression.
If you know your dog is likely to become stressed when it sees another dog put it on the lead and talk to it calmly. If it doesn´t pull or bark at the other dog reward the positive behaviour with a treat.
Take your dog to training classes
A great way to deal with dog socialisation is to join a training class. These aren´t just for puppies, they can be useful to socialise an adult dog too.
The benefits of a dog training class include:
- it will create a bond between you and your dog
- you will learn new obedience techniques
- your dog will learn how to behave in the company of other dogs
- the activities will stimulate your dog
Dog training can also help deal with the signs of a poorly socialised dog such as:
- constant barking
- jumping up on people or furniture
- snapping or biting
- nervousness around people
A class can be a great way to meet other dog owners and talk to people who may have the same problems socialising their dog as you.
Offer plenty of stimulation
Just like adults, dogs need entertainment. Give your dog toys to play with and make time to spend having fun each day. Even if you don´t have time for a long walk, a game of tug of war or fetch can help relieve your dog’s stress.
Dog chews are a form of stimulation and can prevent boredom as they combine a treat with a repetitive action. However, don´t leave your dog alone with a chew as they could choke.
Make your dog work for its food. Hide treats around the house and play hide and seek or invent games such as putting treats in pots or around the garden (remembering to avoid any poisonous plants). This can be part of your dog’s daily food allowance – they don´t have to have it all in a bowl at dinner time.
Go to the dog park
A sure way to get your dog used to others is to take it to the dog park to have fun. It can run and play with other dogs in a safe environment.
If you live in a city where it is difficult to find places to let your dog off the lead, a dog park is the perfect solution. Your pet can run and exercise as much as it wants without you worrying about it running away or having an accident.
Allowing your pet this freedom can help deal with dog social anxiety as a nervous dog will start to see the park as a safe space. Just like humans, dogs have a need to communicate and mix socially. If you see certain other dogs regularly you’ll notice your dog starts to make friends and will start to build a group of playmates.
Take your dog with you when you can
Leaving a dog at home alone can cause stress. This is why isolated dogs bark or chew belongings. They get bored and don´t know when you’re going to come back as they have no sense of time. Hence your dog gets so excited when you return, even if you’ve just popped out for 10 minutes.
It’s worth researching dog-friendly places so you can take your dog with you when possible. This could be to a restaurant, park or beach.
There are also plenty of pet-friendly hotels and other accommodation where you can take your dog on holiday with you. Your pet is a member of the family and will enjoy any trip you take them on, whether a road trip, camping or to a cottage in the countryside.
Spending quality time together can be just as relaxing for you as for your dog. If your dog likes to curl up on your lap or you don´t mind it sitting on the sofa next to you this is the perfect time to enjoy each other’s company.
Stroking and petting a dog is a way to calm them and you. Plus, it builds your relationship with your best friend, encouraging that special bond to grow between you.
Sometimes just sitting together and listening to relaxing music can build your dog’s confidence and make them more amenable to socialising.
How to socialise an aggressive dog?
If you have an aggressive dog you may avoid going out in public in case it starts to growl and bark at other people and dogs. This tactic is not a long-term solution, and it is better to solve the problem so you can both enjoy the pleasures of being out and about together.
The first thing is to try and understand why your dog is aggressive. Has it had a bad experience with another dog, person or child? Is a friend’s dog invading its territory, taking its toys or food when they visit you? Has the dog been mistreated in the past?
This can help you deal with the approach to take, for example, if your dog has been beaten you should never raise your hand to it and it may even be scared of sticks or brooms.
Then you can try using the above methods, depending on which is most suitable for the circumstances.
Shouting at an aggressive dog will not work either, it will just make the dog more defensive and scared. Dogs are very perceptive to human voices and actions – always try to speak to your dog in a calm, even tone so it feels comfortable.
If you have any doubt whatsoever that your dog may become aggressive when with other people or animals use a muzzle to prevent it from biting. While we feel we know our dogs they are still animals and can behave unpredictably when scared.
For example, some dogs don´t like being patted on the head as it invades their space while small dogs don’t take to children picking them up like toys. Dogs can show aggression towards other dogs if they are on a lead and meet face-on as there is no way to escape. This can be dealt with by walking in an arc around the other dog and talking to your own in a pleasant tone, rewarding it if it stays calm.
If you feel your dog is impossibly aggressive and a danger you could try working one-to-one with a professional dog trainer to learn the methods for dealing with your dog’s aggression.
Lactium® for anti-social behaviour
You may wish to try a gentle form of medication in conjunction with the above methods for socialising your dog, particularly if they show signs of fear or aggression. Lactium® is a milk-derived natural ingredient that can help calm your pet and deal with the stress it is experiencing.