8 Tips for Socialising Your Dog
These 8 Tips for Socialising Your Dog will help you put your best foot forward while making sure your Doggo is a pawfectly well behaved canine member of society.
1. Get Off the Couch
2. Prepare to succeed
3. Know what your goals are
4. Don’t reinforce negative behaviour
5. Stay in Control
6. The Power of High Value Treats
7. Dogs Learn in Short Spurts
8. Obedience Classes Pros and Con
There’s nothing quite like a pleasant walk with your dog at your side. No yanking, excessive panting, no barking… You don’t worry that your dog will lunge at the first small dog or toddler you encounter. If an elderly gentleman bends down to say hello, your dog won’t snap or cower. But how do you get there? Here are a few tips to help you socialise your pup so you both can enjoy the time you spend together when you are out and about on the town.
1. Get Off the Couch
This may seem obvious, but you can’t do much socialising hanging out with your dog binge watching Netflix. Get out and walk your dog several times a day. Mix it up. The more exposure your dog gets to different environments, the better. That said, don’t assume your dog will automatically know how to behave. That’s where training comes in.
2. Get Set for Success
Before you introduce your dog to other people, dogs, or new situations, make sure he understands when you are pleased with his behaviour. Treat and clicker training make it absolutely clear when your dog has given you the response you are looking for. Not only that, since you are the source of the reward, your dog’s attention stays on you, which is where it belongs. Your dog should look to you for leadership and guidance and clicker training is one way to help establish who is the pack leader.
3. Know What You Are Aiming For
A well-socialised dog is a pleasure to be around. They don’t lunge and jump, seeking attention from everyone they meet. They don’t shy away, either. They are more or less neutral, calmly accepting attention without feeling overwhelmed or threatened.
4. Don’t Accidentally Reinforce Negative Behaviour
If your dog seems nervous or aggressive, don’t accidentally reinforce his response by cooing and reassuring him. What you may mean to say is, “Hey, you’re ok. Calm down,” but what your dog hears is your tone of voice translated to mean, “Good boy, growling [or quivering] like that was the right response. Well done.”
5. Stay in Control
When you first introduce your dog to others, pick and choose the playmates. A huge off-leash dog park with a young or inexperienced dog is a recipe for disaster. A controlled environment (meet somewhere neutral - not on either dog’s home turf) and a well-planned meeting go a long way to teaching your dog good manners. Later, when you head out into the world and begin to allow your dog to interact with people (and dogs) you don’t know, you call the shots. Don’t let just anyone run up to your dog and pat her. Instead, first ask your dog to sit and give clear instructions what the stranger should and should not do. First offering the back of a hand for sniff is good manners for humans and only patting the dog where the dog can see is also a good idea. By avoiding startling the dog you are reducing the likelihood of a defensive snap or flinching away when surprised by a grab at the back of the neck.
6. Keep Treats Handy, Reward for Good Behaviour
It can be helpful for a dog to have a few learned behaviours - sitting or offering a paw - that can be used when meeting new people. By forcing the dog to focus on you and what you are asking, and then immediately earning a reward by doing what’s expected reinforces the idea that meeting people is fun but doesn’t involved leaping on them or wild barking. If you are using food treats, make sure they are healthy and adjust the amount of food you give at the next meal.
7. Don’t Overdo It
All dogs have different levels of stress when it comes to engaging with others. Learn to read your dog and stop before she gets tired or stressed. When you are first starting to socialise, keep the sessions short and stop while your dog is still having fun.
8. Consider Obedience Classes
Attending an obedience class can be a great, safe way to teach young puppies how to behave around other people and dogs. It’s a good idea to first observe a class or two and have a chat with other participants to get an idea of the trainer’s approach. Some trainers offer puppy classes where the emphasis is on establishing good dog manners and building social confidence at a key point in your young dog’s development.
For more tips on dog training, nutrition, and care, check out the rest of the Rawmate Complete and Balanced Blog. Don’t be afraid to be a bit social yourself - if you have a question or concern, drop us a note and let us know. When it comes to dogs, we are always happy to stop and chat!