how to socialize a dog

An unsocialized dog poses the risk of becoming aggressive toward another dog, animal, or human.

Dogs become aggressive due to fear.

Socialization eliminates the risk of your dog becoming fearful of something that isn’t actually scary, such as unfamiliar people.

For this reason, it's incredibly important to learn how to socialize a dog.

The prime time to socialize a dog is when they are four months old and younger, as it is much harder for a dog to form a habit after this point.

However, if a dog is socialized as a puppy and never socialized again in its adult life, it could become fearful of unfamiliar people, dogs, and noises.

Dogs who were never socialized as puppies can still become socialized, but it will be a slower process.

Adult dogs’ personalities are pretty unchangeable, so while you can expect your unsocialized adult dog to become less aggressive due to adult socialization, don’t expect a suddenly friendly dog.

I'm trying to say that learning how to socialize a dog when he's young is one of the best things you can do for you and your canine companion.

How to Socialize a Dog With Humans: A Beginner's Guide

how to socialize a dog

How Do You Begin Dog Socialization?

The very first step in learning how to socialize a dog is not separating the dog from the litter before eight weeks of age.

During those eight weeks, dogs play, fight, and interact with their mother and siblings.

Dogs learn the most about getting along with other dogs during those eight weeks, so separating the dog too early can have lifelong consequences.

Also, allowing your dog to live inside helps the dog build socializing skills.

When dogs are alone outside all the time, they won’t be able to be as socialized as they need to be.

According to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, unsocialized dogs are 580 times more likely to become aggressive.

When a dog becomes aggressive, it is due to fear. Proper socialization is what will help a dog get over any fears they have.

When you get a dog used to outside people and dogs, they won’t become scared every time someone new comes around.

Daily walking does a lot to improve a dog’s socialization. When you walk your dog, they will become used to seeing unfamiliar people and dogs.

They may be fearful at first, but daily walking will quickly get them over that fear.

how to socialize a dogDog parks are also an excellent way to help your dog become socialized.

If you have an adult dog that isn’t socialized, you should try other means of socialization, such as leased walks, before bringing your dog to a dog park. You don’t want to risk your dog possibly going after another dog.

However, if you have a puppy or you have an adult dog that was socialized and just needs a refresher, the dog park is perfect.

Your dog will have the opportunity to meet and play with all different kinds of dogs, which goes a long way for socialization.

Introduce your dog to the other dog owners at the dog park too.

When your dog meets people of all different shapes, sizes, and appearances, they will not become alarmed when they meet more new people.

Another great place to introduce your dog to other dogs would be the pet supply store.

I know this one sounds a little different, but it works. Not every dog owner brings their dog to the pet store with them, but many do.

Your dog will have the opportunity to smell new smells, meet new people, and meet their dogs. Plus, taking your dog to the pet supply store doesn’t require much effort on your part. After all, if you already have to go there to pick up supplies, what more is bringing your dog along?

RELATED: Going To A Dog Park For the First Time? 12 Things You Need To Know

Signs of Aggression in Dogs

how to socialize a dogThe friendliest dog can become aggressive if they are startled.

Noise can be very scary for dogs, causing them to become aggressive.

You should try to expose your dog to as many sounds as possible.

Think of any loud noises that might startle your dog, such as vacuum cleaners and cars, and expose them as much as possible to those sounds.

Over time, Fido will become accustomed to those noises and won’t really care anymore.

There are certain experiences that might be frightening to a dog and cause them to lash out.

The best way to get your dog used to these experiences is to expose him to them.

Being grabbed by the collar, getting touched on the paws or underarms, and having their nails trimmed are all potentially fear-triggering in your dog.

Your dog may also become aggressive if someone is near their food bowl. The more you expose your dog to these experiences, the sooner they will be able to remain calm when needed.

This training technique is most effective in puppies but can be used in adult dogs, too.

With adult dogs, be more cautious and patient with this kind of training. Rewarding your dog with treats when they remain calm will help them form a habit sooner.

If you are the only human your dog is around, they might become hostile towards other humans.

Also, dogs can become frightened by humans who look different than the humans they are used to.

You should try to introduce your dog to as many different kinds of people as possible.

If your dog is used to shorter people, make sure to introduce them to tall people.

If your dog is used to slimmer people, introduce them to larger people, and so on.

It is very important to socialize your dog with children, even if you don’t have any.

Children could randomly approach your dog without asking permission, and if he becomes startled, he could bite a child.

If your dog is comfortable with children, you won’t have that liability to deal with.

When you learn how to socialize a dog, remember that they get tired, too.

Your dog might be completely content playing with another dog until that dog starts to do too much. The opposite could occur as well.

Dogs might become aggressive if they are being bothered by your dog after they feel like they are done playing.

When you are out socializing your dog, limit how long your dog is playing with other dogs.

Make sure you know your own dog’s personality, and watch for signs that he might be tired.

Once you catch onto the signs, it’s time to take your dog back home.

RECOMMENDED VIDEO GUIDE: How To Train A Dog To Behave Around Kids

What To Be Cautious Of

As important as socializing your dog, you must make sure you are doing it safely.

The first step in being cautious is to know signs that a dog is in fear or distress.

Every dog’s personality is different, so make sure you understand behaviors that are specific to your dog.

Most dogs will show that they are close to becoming aggressive by panting, yawning, and sticking their tail in between their legs.

Dogs may shake their fur when they are becoming stressed.

If the hair on their back stands up, they might feel threatened.

Whenever you notice these signs in your dog or another dog around yours, remove your dog from the situation immediately.

This will prevent your dog from hurting someone and prevent your dog from getting hurt.

When you are taking your dog to socialize with other dogs, be wary of the dogs you attempt socialization with.

If you have a smaller dog, you don’t want to let your dog approach bigger, unfamiliar dogs.

This puts your dog at risk as you never know how another dog may react towards him.

how to socialize a dogIntroduce your pup to other dogs similarly sized. With dogs bigger or smaller than yours, get to know the other dog yourself before introducing your dog.

Talk to their owner and learn about the dog's temperament.

If it seems the two would be able to get along, introduce them, but keep them leased during the interaction.

Only allow your dog off the leash once you’re confident both dogs are comfortable with each other.

If you feel that socialization is going nowhere with your dog, seek out training courses. This is more likely to be required with adult dogs who already have set lifelong habits.

Training courses will give your dog new, supervised chances to interact with other dogs and will also help teach you about your dog’s habits.

If you aren’t having success socializing your dog on your own, there may be something about your dog you aren't catching onto.

A professional trainer can help you figure out why you are having issues and help you fix them.

Learning how to socialize a dog might seem tedious, after all, is it that important?

The answer is yes, it is absolutely essential.

Proper socialization will keep those around your dog safe, which prevents any issues from arising.

Also, a socialized dog isn’t going to instigate a fight with a (possibly stronger) unfamiliar dog.

Unfortunately, aggressive dogs will often be put down. Therefore, handling any aggression issues with your dog keeps him safe.

SIMILAR: 20 Most Aggressive Dog Breeds

How to Socialize a Dog With Humans: Final Thoughts

how to socialize a dogThe best time to socialize a dog is when they’re a puppy. However, you can learn how to socialize a dog when they are an adult, just with a little more patience.

Regular socialization activities, such as walks, are a great way to ensure your dog will stay as social as they were when they were a puppy.

Exposure is key. The more your dog is exposed to other dogs, humans, interactions, noises, and so on, the better your dog will react.

Isolation is the easiest way to undo socialization, so avoid keeping your dog isolated as much as possible.

Always make sure you can tell when your dog is becoming fearful, defensive, or aggressive. Every dog is different when it comes to showing signs, but overall, the body language is similar in every dog.

A tail tucked between the legs, excessive panting, yawning, and hair sticking up are all signs that should never be ignored.

When you notice these, remove your dog from the environment immediately.

Keeping your dog, other people and other animals safe needs to be your first concern when learning how to socialize a dog.

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How to Socialize A Dog With Humans

Dom Naish is a Phoenix-based writer, vegan, cupcake addict and dog lover. Years in the animal rescue trenches have taught him every aspect of dog ownership from behavioral problems, personality and breed specific trait differences of all dogs.