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How to socialize your dog?
Just as us humans, dogs are social creatures. Socialization is essential for them to live happily and contentedly, and to feel fulfilled. Socialization is a process of getting to know the world and environment. Every new experience is part of that socialization and contributes to the dog's well-being. Whether you’re getting a small puppy or an adult, older dog, this skill is important despite age, and is always present and comes to the fore. Lack of socialization or some other forms of social relations between dogs can lead to developing aggressive behavior, depression, decreased appetite, and even the development of certain diseases. Therefore, it is extremely important to take your dog's needs for socialization seriously and not to ignore them, so that they feel calm and happy in an environment with other creatures around them.
Why is socialization important?
At some point, all dogs will inevitably encounter unfamiliar people and dogs. If they are not properly socialized and are uncomfortable around people and other dogs, it might display problematic behaviors, such as growling, aggressive and loud barking, and even biting. Therefore, it is every owner’s responsibility to socialize their dog among people and other dogs to protect them as much as possible and make their life easier. The socialization process is especially important for dominant breeds that naturally have a strong character that can escalate later in life if the dog is not properly socialized. Dogs are a social species, and they enjoy socializing with both people and other dogs. It is, therefore, necessary that they have a positive experience of coexistence with others around them.
When to start?
You should start socializing your dog as soon as possible. The older the dog, the more difficult it will be to introduce change and novelty in its day-to-day routine. It is not necessary to hire a dog trainer for training. It is even better if the dog’s owner, whom the animal trusts the most, assumes that part. Puppies, for example, are very resistant and somewhat stubborn in the period from one to four months of age, but you can start working with them by taking them everywhere as much as possible and exposing them to as many different types of people, dogs, environments, weather conditions and the like as possible. This applies even to atypical situations such as crowds, concerts, or shopping centers, which may make them nervous at first. However, when they are exposed to such situations from a young age, that experience can become normal and positive for them over time, much easier than in adult dogs.
However, if adopting a dog from an animal shelter, bear in mind that the dogs that have spent some time there have often gone through certain difficult situations with their previous owners or have been abused and may suffer from trauma and fear. As a result, adopted dogs can react and behave differently in normal circumstances, sometimes making socialization more challenging for their owners. It is probably a good idea to hire a professional dog trainer or a trainer who will know how to work with such an animal. They shall teach it to adapt to new, normal circumstances in which it will no longer be exposed to anything negative.
How to socialize a puppy?
A puppy is ready for socialization after receiving all vaccinations, but you can start with socialization basics even earlier. The goal is to expose the puppy to as many new situations as possible within the first weeks of life, and enable it to see, hear, touch and smell the world around it. Every new interaction it has with another dog, person, or within its environment prepares the puppy for all situations later in life. The more positive experiences it has as a puppy, the more comfortable it will be as an adult.
During socialization, you should constantly observe the puppy's behavior and reactions and act accordingly. Socialization can begin by taking the dog outside, visiting friends and family, or interacting with other dogs and animals that are vaccinated and well-behaved. The pace of socialization should be adjusted to suit the puppy, because some have innate behaviors that make them naturally anxious, and a veterinarian can help with individual counseling.
Socialization of adult dogs
Unfortunately, not every dog is properly socialized as a puppy, and this is most common in the already mentioned cases when the dog had a previous traumatic experience and comes from an animal shelter. In addition, a puppy can be too frail to explore the world when it is young, so it must undergo socialization later. Whatever the reason, older dogs will find unfamiliar experiences more challenging. However, every dog can always improve with patience and a light and safe approach. Nevertheless, one should have realistic expectations and be aware that it may not be possible to make the dog feel comfortable in every situation.
Depending on a dog's background, the goal may be to introduce enough stimuli to help the dog feel protected and safe only in its immediate surroundings, rather than its environment in general. At the same time, you should not rush an older dog to absorb new experiences at the same pace and with the same ease as a puppy. You should choose a pace that suits the dog, and this is where the already mentioned patience comes into play.
The best way to start is to find an environment where the dog already feels comfortable and work your way up from there. If the dog becomes anxious at any time, stop and try again. It is important to end each part of socialization on a positive note, and treats will come in handy. Encouragement, positivity, and patience play a big role in the socialization of a dog, especially an adult one. Every time it shows progress or tries to overcome its fears, the dog should be praised and rewarded.
Dogs are a great joy, but also an obligation. Adopting a dog is just like bringing a newborn home. New dogs are a lot of work as they require a lot of love, attention, and effort, but it pays off in the end. A dog is not a toy, but a living being, and it needs a certain amount of time to get to know the world around it, get used to new situations, learn the rules of behavior, establish its own routine, and grow accustomed to its owner's routine. Before you decide to take that step and commit to getting a dog, it would be good to consider which breed would best suit a certain lifestyle and habits, so that the dog does not suffer later due to not fitting into them.