Why It’s Important to Socialize Your Dog

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Socializing your dog can be one of the most important things you can do for your dog.  Being comfortable in different situations is so much more healthy for them than being afraid – both physically and mentally. A large majority of dogs that bite do it out of fear.

There is so much more to socializing than just taking your dog out of the house and in a perfect world, would begin in puppyhood. The steps for socializing a dog is the same with an older dog as it is with a puppy. However, if your older dog has not been socialized, take it slower. Socializing starts at home. Make sure that your dog sees you as his protector – not the other way around. He must see you as the giver of all good things and the “parent” of the relationship. This is really nothing more than practicing basic obedience exercises every chance you get so that he is used to you being in charge so he doesn’t feel the need to be. When you have that accomplished, you should actually begin to see your pup (or dog) begin to act more secure. He knows what the expectations are.

Now is the time to take it outside the house. Start with walks around your neighborhood.  Remember that your dog will often take his cues from you. If you begin to get nervous that another dog, or person walks toward you, he will begin to feel nervous too. Take a deep breath and walk by with a firm (not tight) grip on your leash and confidently walk. If it doesn’t go perfectly, revert back to what he knows and is comfortable with – the basic obedience you’ve been practicing at home. Don’t be disheartened, it just tells you what you need to work on.

There are many places you can take your dog to get experience for you and him. The big box home improvement stores will generally welcome your dogs, obviously so do pet supply stores. Lots of restaurants with outdoor seating welcome dogs too. Try going to the evening and weekend little league or high school ball games. You may not be able to get in the crowd yet, but if you stay back and make sure your dog has a good experience, it will get easier for both of you each time you go. As long as the experience is a good one, you should try to get a little closer the next time you go. If that’s too much, back up to where
you were successful. Other things to look for while out and about are different surfaces and sounds. Lots of dogs are afraid of grates, motorcycles, trash trucks, hats, sunglasses – the list is endless. The more things you can expose him to and keep the adventure positive, the more confident he will become and you will be able to take him more places! Have fun on your adventures. I would love to hear what tips you have
or ideas on how to socialize your dogs.

Terry Meeks is a dog trainer, APDT Member an CGC Evaluator in Pinellas County, Florida.  Find Four on the Floor Dog Training at FourontheFloor-Dogtraining.com and on Facebook.

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