5 Tips for Socializing Your Older Dog
You’ve probably heard that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that’s simply not true! In fact, dogs of all ages are eager to learn. When it comes to socializing your pup, the earlier you can start, the better. However, for various reasons, it’s not always possible. But don’t lose hope. While it can certainly be more challenging to socialize an older dog than a puppy, it’s far from impossible.
We’ve put together 5 tips on how to socialize your older dog to get you started.
1. Take regular walks with your pup to familiarize him with other dogs.
Walks are great opportunities for your pet to be exposed to new sights, sounds, smells, and friends both animal and human. If your dog isn’t used to those things, however, he could become easily excited or overwhelmed, which could result in him barking or lunging at other dogs he meets along the way. If this happens, don’t tug on his leash or scold him (remember, he’s acting out of fear of the unknown) as it will only make the experience a negative one. Instead, distract him by offering a correction he understands or giving him a treat. Sometimes, turning and heading in a different direction is enough to help him calm down.
2. Safely and slowly expose your dog to various social settings.
It’s important to understand that an unsocialized dog needs to move at his own pace and that taking things slowly will help set him up for success. Don’t rush your pup. For example, rather than letting your unsocialized dog run loose in a park and hoping for the best, take him for a leashed walk around the perimeter so he can get a feel of what’s going on. Do this several times until you feel as those he’s ready to join in on the fun.
3. Consider programs like doggy daycare.
Doggy daycare is a wonderful way for your dog to improve their social skills. The attention and exercise dogs receive at doggy daycare generally make them less destructive, more apt to follow commands, and less fearful of the unknown--all of which leads to better socialization. If your dog is able to pass a temperament test, then doggy daycare might be just what they need to get started!
4. Enroll your pup in a training class.
Dogs that aren’t well adjusted often benefit from professional training. Dog training classes are one of the best ways you can introduce your dog with other dogs and humans. Not only does your dog get to socialize in a controlled environment, but you also get to socialize with other owners who are quite possibly there for the same or similar reason as you.
5. Be patient and persistent.
Socializing an older dog will take time and repetition. Be patient and try not to get discouraged if the process is taking longer than you expected. Continue to work toward creating a calm and loving environment with positive associations for each new experience your pup encounters. Doing so will help your dog become a happy and well-rounded socialite.
As you socialize your older dog, it’s important that you do so safely. Never underestimate how scared your dog might be in an unfamiliar setting. No matter how wonderful he is at home with the family, there is always the possibility that he might react by biting.