As much as we pet parents want to keep our fur babies all to ourselves, that’s not always possible. Even if you live alone, you still have to contend with grocery and takeout delivery drivers, home maintenance technicians, and neighbors. It’s a good idea to make sure that your dog is socialized so they’re comfortable in social situations around the inevitable stranger or two. Don’t worry, we’re here to walk you through the process of how to socialize a dog.

What is Dog Socialization

Dog socialization is simply making sure that your dog is comfortable with its environment and the people in it. Your goal is to make sure that your dog plays well with others. Give them the chance to explore all the different sights and sounds that the world has to offer. Here are a few easy ways to get started on socialization:

  • Take a walk — Grab your leash and get ready to head outdoors. Not only is taking a walk good exercise for both of you, but it also exposes your dog to neighbors, passers-by, the mail carrier, and it even gets them used to cars driving by. Even a quick stroll around the block can make a difference. Once your dog is comfortable with this routine, change it up! Allow your dog to become familiar with their neighborhood and all the different kinds of dogs and people in it.
  • Go to a dog park or playground — Now you can now start venturing out of your neighborhood and take a walk down to your local dog park. Introduce your dog to other dogs and their owners and maybe even make a few friends. Be sure to follow on- and off-leash rules. Reinforce positive interactions with a treat or dog food. Playgrounds are another type of place to check out so your dog can get used to being around kids. Throw a ball a few times to make the walk even more fun.
  • Go to a pet shop — Down to your last few poop bags? Stop by your local pet store to stock up on essentials and maybe even meet some other dogs and owners in your neighborhood.

Socializing a Puppy

One good thing about socializing a puppy is that the skills they learn will stay with them as they grow into an adult. The best time to start socializing a puppy is between 3 and 12 weeks of age. Follow the tips above for socializing an adult dog, but keep in mind that your puppy might be experiencing a wide variety of things for the first time and might become overexcited.

Make sure your puppy gets exposed to:

  • Strangers
  • Unfamiliar dress (hoods, sunglasses, and hats)
  • Urban environments
  • Cars, trucks, and motorcycles 
  • Neighborhood objects like bikes, strollers, and skateboards
  • Parks, bodies of water, woods, and beaches
  • Cats
  • Other dogs

Keep an eye on your puppy’s behavior to make sure that they’re not scared or feeling overwhelmed by all of these new experiences.

Socializing an Older Dog

Socialization might be a little bit more challenging if your dog is older than 18 weeks (about four months), but you can still use the same steps we’ve outlined above. You’ll just have to keep a few extra things in mind:

  • Your dog might move a bit slower and tire out sooner
  • Make sure your dog doesn’t have any injuries before you venture out
  • Check the weather—chilly temperatures can sometimes aggravate conditions like osteoarthritis

Older dogs still need exercise and positive reinforcement, so don’t let your dog’s age stop them from enjoying fun outdoor activities with other dogs.

Whatever your dog’s age, there are a few things to keep in mind when you start taking steps to properly socialize your dog: 

  • Follow the cues — How is your dog responding to being socialized? Is your puppy trying to tell you that it’s a little too soon for them to be in a dog park?
  • Proceed with caution — Sure, it’s fun to make new furry friends, but it’s probably not a good idea for your chihuahua to pal around with a Great Dane.
  • Know when to go home — Has the weather taken a turn for the worst? Is your pooch tired? Is there a fight at the dog park? Know when it’s time to call it a day.

Still have questions? We’re here to help. Contact Airvet any time—day or night—if you have any questions about socializing your dog when they have an injury or which vaccinations they should get before they start socializing with other animals.

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