4 Steps to a socially healthy dog

Social Health Pets

Every owner wants to enjoy fun, worry-free outings with their dog: a trip to the park, walking downtown to meet friends, hiking on local trails. Yet, a pet dragging its owner on a leash or jumping to greet every passerby can make an owner avoid these social situations.

A poorly socialized dog

Poor socializing skills can interfere with a dog’s ability to interact with others. When a dog is poorly socialized it can be:

  • Easily be startled by noises;
  • Scared in crowds;
  • Overly enthusiastic around newcomers;
  • Scared when interacting with others.

These behaviors make outings less pleasurable for both pet and owner. It can also make inviting guests over a stressful experience for the whole family.

This need not be the case. Whether old or young, their behavior will improve with these four tips for socialization.

1. Safely introduce your dog to new social situations

Regularly introducing your dog to new people, places, and pets will go a long way toward helping them stay calm and well-behaved. A new situation could be anything from meeting a new dog, a well-behaved child, or person of a different age or ethnicity.

To keep the introduction safe, start slowly. For example, if you are at a new house, keep the dog on a leash and walk the perimeter before entering. If you are at a new dog park, follow the same guideline.

When greeting new people, start with one person or pet at a time. After your dog has this skilled conquered, continuing looking for new friends to meet. Regular introductions help keep those healthy social skills well established.

There is even a doggy check off list available to find great ideas for new opportunities.

    2. Vary your daily walks

      Meeting new dogs (and people) on walks is a great way to improve doggy social skills. Your dog will have less pent-up energy from the walk and most likely be calmer. The opposite is true if walks are skipped, setting your dog up for a negative experience if they have pent up energy.

      Either way, if your dog is still energetic, barking, or pulling on the leash, keep the introduction positive by remaining calm and not yelling. Also, don’t yank your dog on the leash because they are acting up; it will only make them feel more excited and have negative feelings associated with meeting new dogs.

      Vary the location of daily walks to help mentally stimulate your pet. Explore different dirt roads, parks, and neighborhoods.

        3. Continue introducing your dog to new dogs

          After awhile, your dog will become a pro at meeting other dogs – but don’t stop there. Dogs need to be kept current on their introduction skills or they can forget how to behave around others.

          Another great way to meet dogs is visiting a dog park, joining a doggy playgroup, or planning play dates with friends’ dogs.

            4. Know the differences in puppy play vs. adult dog play

              Older dogs behave differently than young puppies. Puppies are learning behavior cues from play and love to interact with groups of dogs. However, adult dogs prefer to play one-on-one or to stay near their family. They may even growl or snap if a young dog comes too close. This is normal behavior and should be recognized as the adult dog needing space and teaching the younger pup how to interact with its elders.

              Article written by Melissa Wheeler