Socializing your dog
Socialization describes the process by which your dog
learns to relate to people, other dogs, and his
environment. Your newly adopted dog will already be
socialized to a large extent, but he can still learn new
behaviors and routines. In fact, he will continue learning
throughout his life.
The first month is critical
The experiences you give your new dog during his first few
weeks at home with you are critical for his and your
future, and will have a long lasting effect on his
behavior throughout his life.
So make sure that you have time to invest in an
intensive socialization program during his early weeks
with you. You’re laying the foundation for your dog’s
behavior later on in life, and an ounce of prevention is
worth a pound of cure. Besides, it’s great fun and will
help you get to know your newly adopted dog very well,
Where do I fit in?
Dogs are pack animals that need a leader. It’s important
that your newly adopted dog recognizes you as the pack
leader and learns his place in the “pack” when you bring
him home. He may naturally choose to follow or he may try
But, in the canine-human pack, it is imperative that
the dog understands that he has a lower ranking than any
human, including children. This understanding can be
achieved through effective training.
Through training, your dog will learn to understand
what his human companions expect of him, and where his
place in the pack is, so he’ll be better able to fit
easily into his new environment. And the better you
understand your dog’s behavior, the more rewarding your
relationship will be.
Everyone in the household (including visitors) needs to
know what the rules are now that the new addition has
arrived. For example, is he allowed on the couch? Whatever
the answer, these rules should be adhered to at all times.
Clear behavior guidelines will help your dog understand
what’s expected of him so he can settle into his new home.
Most dogs take about a month or so to feel comfortable in
a new home—establishing and following a routine are the
best ways to make this happen.
Identify those situations and environments where your dog
will need to be comfortable. These may include riding in
the car, meeting the mailman, having contact with the
children next door (and children in general), walking
through a dog-filled park—to name just a few. You’ll want
to prepare your dog for all eventualities, so that
whenever he encounters anyone or anything new, he’ll react
with pleasant curiosity rather than fear or aggression.
essential that your new dog be fully comfortable with all
sorts of people, especially children. You can gauge his
comfort level (and help increase it) by introducing him to
a variety of people. When taking him for a walk, take some
tasty snacks with you and ask people to toss him one.
Your dog will soon learn that people are friendly. You can
incorporate some basic training into this by teaching him
to sit before people give him a snack. This will prevent
him jumping up at strangers.
Children may be seen as a different species (compared
to adults) by dogs, as they move differently, speak
differently, and react differently. So start slowly by
spending time in and around children’s parks where your
dog will learn the sights and sounds of children playing.
Start by having just a few children around your dog, then
build up to a larger number. Please note: If your dog is
insecure or aggressive in any manner, seek the help of a
Hopefully, he’ll get along famously with other dogs, but
if he’s had limited exposure, he may not. Aggression is a
common symptom of a lack of contact with other dogs. Of
course, the best way to remedy this is to have your
leashed dog interact frequently with other leashed dogs.
Obedience classes provide a good opportunity to
socialize him with dogs and people in a controlled
setting. The more chances your dog gets to meet new
friends, the better behaved he’ll be. Of course, he
shouldn't be allowed to run at the dog park until he gets
along with other dogs.
To get your dog feeling more comfortable around his
canine counterparts, start with dogs that you already know
are trustworthy. If your dog behaves himself, reward him
for his polite behavior in the presence of the other dog.
Gradually work up to rewarding the dog for being close to
the other dog, getting closer and closer each time.
Your local park is a great training ground. Take a seat
on a bench and keep your dog on his leash sitting right
next to you. Every time another dog passes by, give your
dog a treat and lots of praise. Once you repeat this
process several times, your dog will come to associate
other dogs walking by with getting something good to eat.
If, after all of this, you find your dog is still
having problems around other dogs, you may want to
consider taking him to a trainer who specializes in this
area. Ask your vet to make a recommendation.