Dogs are man's best friend, right? All dog parents want their pets to be happy, healthy, and to live a full life. One of the best ways to ensure that this happens is to take the time to socialize your best friend with other people and with other dogs. Socializing a dog will allow the dog to become familiar with different situations and reduce the occurrence of anxiety or other behavior issues.
Introducing Your Dog to Other People
Socializing your dog can begin the first day you bring your new dog home, or at anytime if you already have a dog. When you begin training your dog, keep things low-key. If they get highly excited, it's more difficult to work with a dog. Get your dog used to the sound of your voice in a normal volume. Pet them, rub their belly or scratch them behind the ears--whatever seems to work. As they enjoy the attention, they'll come to associate good feelings with your presence.
When your dog is comfortable with you, bring another family member into the scenario. This may take some time; you have to judge your dog and go by their timetable. If you're introducing a new person into the socializing process, it might be a good idea to have them take the dog for a walk with you accompanying to ease any stress the dog may feel. As your dog becomes more social, introduce more people in the same quiet, easy-going manner. Soon your dog will realize that people are good to be around and lots of fun, too.
Training Your Dog for Small Children
Care should be taken when introducing a dog to a small child. Dogs who seemingly get along fine with adults might not like children who tend to be more vocal and can startle a dog easily. Also, children can be more tactile, wanting to reach out and touch a dog before the dog is comfortable. While a child might like nothing more than to show the doggy how much they love him with a big hug, some dogs will not tolerate such behavior. Even if there are no small children in your house, you never know who you might meet while on a walk with your dog, or who eventually might be in your house if you invite guests with small children to your home. Regardless of how well-behaved your dog is with children, never leave them alone with any child under the age of eight, or any child who your dog is not familiar with.
A good habit to get into while walking your dog is to use the "heel" command. When someone approaches you and asks if they can pet your dog, have Fido sit, and then ask the the person to let your dog sniff their hand before petting. Most dogs enjoy the attention, and will soon welcome new greeters by sitting immediately with a wagging tail, just waiting for the love.
Meeting Other Dogs
Socializing your dog with other dogs is a smart thing to do, even if you have no intention of owning multiple dogs at the same time. Dogs are very social creatures and sometimes just need to have the company of their own kind. This is why dog parks are so popular. It is such a joy to watch dogs interact and play with each other. However, if you have a dog who isn't socialized, you and your dog could miss out on this great experience.
Before joining the local dog park and thrusting Fido into the mix, start off by taking your dog for a walk with a friend and their dog that has, preferably, an easy-going temperament and that is known to act well with other dogs. Keeping the dogs on their leashes with firm control is important, especially at the initial meeting. Just give them time to sniff each other and make their introductions, and then begin walking them. Watch how they interact, and you may soon see a companionship forming.
If you join a dog park, it's best to bring Fido when it isn't too crowded. Ease your dog into the group, which might be a bit overwhelming at first. Go by your dog's timetable. You have to read their cues to see when they are ready to interact with others, whether people or canines.
Properly socializing your pooch is a wonderful gift you can give your dog, your family, and yourself. It may take some time, but the benefits you reap will last a lifetime. It will make for a happier, healthier dog who is more enjoyable to be around and who is truly a member of your family. That is something all dogs want -- and deserve.
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