Are you a new dog parent trying to figure out this whole parenting experience? Then, you are in the right place. In this article, we will take you through actionable steps to ensure you know exactly what to do when socializing your new furry baby.
What to Do
When your dog encounters a new stimulus of any kind (person, dog, animal, object, noise):
1. Allow your dog to keep a distance.
Not only where they are safe, but also where they feel safe! Keep the stimulus/person at a distance and observe your dog – do they want to come closer? Do they lean somewhat backward or even hide behind you?
2. Give your dog the freedom to say “No.”
Don’t overwhelm your dog with being petted and fed treats. Your dog should enjoy the interaction, not just survive.
3. Keep a happy voice.
When you tell your dog “It’s okay, it’s oookaaay”, that sounds to the dog as if you say, “You are correct, this is a scary situation, it’s okay to be scared.” Keep your voice upbeat and happy, as in “That’s great, isn’t that fun?”
4. Pair the novelty with something pleasant.
If your dog is neutral and unsure yet what to think about a situation, ensure that your dog has a pleasant memory of the situation. Play with your dog, pet, praise, give treats. Anything your dog will enjoy – in that situation! Be certain your dog enjoys it! Hugging and corralling your dog might be rather scary if your dog feels helpless to escape.
5. Have many repetitions of the happy experience.
Keep up the pairing and the pleasant experiences as long as possible, while your dog still goes through the different life stages. However, sometimes you might have to back up a little and renew a positive experience.
6. Review every new encounter.
Was my dog having fun or just “surviving” the moment? Next time, make sure you increase the rewards and lower the encounter experience if you feel your dog was just surviving or stayed neutral without really enjoying it.
What NOT to Do
1. Don’t force your dog into socializing.
Don’t throw your puppy in with many dogs at the dog park, expecting them to “figure it out.” That is a recipe for disaster!
2. Don’t ask other people to come and pet your dog.
What if your puppy doesn’t enjoy being petted by strangers? Before you let other people come closer to your dog, you have to be sure that your dog will be happy with their presence.
3. Don’t coax the dog into walking up to strangers.
Don’t encourage your puppy to approach other people by having them hold out a cookie if your dog is clearly not sure about that. It happens pretty often that dogs take the cookie and then immediately bite the hand of the person. It is because they have very mixed emotions at that moment, especially if they are very food motivated.
4. Don’t hesitate to get professional help.
Suppose your dog shows signs of lack of socialization like barking or growling at other dogs or people. In that case, it takes more than “going out and socializing them” to change that. If you struggle with understanding your puppy’s behavior, it might be necessary to contact a professional trainer or behaviorist.
It’s Supposed to Be Fun!
Now you know the dos and donts of socializing your puppy. It’s time to go out with your dog and look for a new, positive experience for both of you! Freel free to contact us if you have additional questions about puppy socialization or read more articles on this topic.