The first thing to do when you get a puppy dog is to socialize him. Unsocialized dogs are like triggered guns. They can cause trouble at any time.
Socializing a dog is a long term process that will continue into adulthood. So, it’s best to start with baby steps and don’t expect your dog to become friendly all of a sudden.
It’s important to understand when to start socializing. Improper socializing can create greater problems than good.
Note- I’m not a professional trainer myself, but I have successfully trained and socialized many of my dogs. So, I do know how the thing works. What I’m going to teach you is a combination of my own experiences and proven techniques from well-established trainers on the internet.
Let’s check it out!
The first step for socializing is to work on the basic skills of your dog. If you do get your dog enrolled in a training class, opt for private training.
Yes. It might sound contradicting, but the truth is you/trainer needs to understand the dog first. And the dog needs to learn how to remain calm in certain situations first.
You can’t expect him to get used to 100 people just because you exposed him to 100 people.
The rule here, as explained by Laura Vanarendonk, a trainer and owner of the Canines In Action, Inc. is that the dog must first learn to remain calm without stress. Only then, you can expect him to socialize under stress.
The foundation training for socialization involves engaging with a dog on a 1 to 1 basis. In this exercise, you will train your dog to learn to sit, eat and relax.
This is the time you will observe his behavior and how aggressive or fearful he is. Not all dogs will have the same level of aggression.
You can use treats at this point. But it’s important to understand how are you using treats.
If you are using treats as a bribe to get your dog to do a certain activity, your dog will stop doing what it’s supposed to do without treat later.
So, you have to use treats as rewards. If he remains calm and obeys an order, he will get treats.
For best results, you should get your dog in a private foundation training class with an experienced trainer.
The slow introduction to new experiences.
After your dog passes the foundation training, it’s important to work start socialization slowly.
The scenario should match with your dog’s current skill set.
So, if your dog has never been exposed to a gathering of 5-10 people, take him out to walk. Make sure there are only 2-3 people at max around.
Similarly, if your dog is not familiar with cars and vehicles yet, let him see and explore a few cars everyday.
Get him exposed slowly and then you can increase the frequency.
So, when he learns to keep calm among 2-3 people, go for 5 and then 10 and then so on!
Retreat when necessary.
Retreating means you must be ready to get back to your home or a safe place when you see your dog reacting to a certain experience.
It’s best to get out with your car and keep a crate on your backseat.
So, whenever you feel your puppy has had enough, you can put him in the crate. This will protect him from overexposure, and your dog will find security in you.
Start with daily walks.
Daily walks are essential. You can’t expect your puppy to learn everything at once. So, take him out on a walk but follow the strategies we talked about.
Make plans before you are going to a particular destination based on your dog’s current tolerance.
Daily walks will make your dog tired and help him remain calm. And slowly, he will get used to more buzz and fuzz.
Introduction to people, places, and things.
All sorts of dog experiences can be categorized into people, places and things!
Start with one thing at a time.
If you are planning to introduce your dog to a new toy or vehicle, focus on that only.
Exploring new places is important. But don’t make him visit 5-10 places in a single day.
So, make sure you are exposing him to at least a new person, a new place and a new thing every day.
Socialization with body handling.
Your dog needs to get used to the way you touch him. But you can’t simply keep on touching and rubbing different parts of his body to get him used to it.
Give him a purpose. You can touch certain parts of his body during playtime. And as soon as you touch that part and your dog remains calm, reward him with treats. Alternatively, you can reward him with more play.
Top Reading Material.
You can start with the book- Puppy Socialization: An Insider Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness by Caryl Wolff. She is a widely acclaimed trainer in the dog world with 20+ years of experience.