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Socializing Your Dog or Puppy

Ongoing socialization is extremely important to prevent behavior problems.  Socialization is especially important before the age of 3 months, but should also be done throughout your dog’s lifetime. Gentle socialization plays a huge role in preventing aggression and fearful behavior. 

Lack of socialization can lead to hyperactive behavior, barking, shyness and aggression.  The younger you begin socializing your dog, the better, but all dogs can be gradually brought into new and even initially fearful situations and learn to enjoy them. 

Socialization is a lifelong process.  For example, if your dog does not see any dogs for months or years at a time, you would expect his behavior to change around them when he does finally see them again.

How to expose your dog to something new or something he is wary of:

  • Make sure that you remain calm, and up-beat and keep his leash loose, if he is wearing one.
  • Expose him gradually to what he is fearful of, never forcing him.  Allow him to retreat if he wants to.
  • Reward him for being calm or for exploring the new situation.

Try to expose your dog regularly to all of the things and situations you would like him to able to cope with calmly in the future.  Progress slowly enough so that it is easy for your dog to enjoy the sessions.  It will seem like a lot of time to spend at first but it will pay off with a well-behaved dog. 

Below are some examples, but this is just a start:

  • Meeting new people of all types, including children, men, crowds, people wearing hats, in wheelchairs, etc.
  • Meeting new dogs (do not bring your pup to areas with lots of dogs until after 4 months)
  • Exposure to other pets such as cats, horse, birds
  • Teach him to enjoy his crate
  • Riding in the car (be sure to restrain him using a crate or seatbelt for safety)
  • Being held, touched all over and in different ways, being bathed and groomed
  • Visiting the Vet’s office, groomer, daycare, boarding kennel
  • Exposure to loud noises and strange objects (example – umbrella opening)
  • Exposure to traffic, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, joggers
  • Getting him used to being left alone for a few hours at a time
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