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How to Socialize Your Dog

Dogs are inherently pack animals--but that doesn’t mean your new puppy, foster dog or rescue dog will automatically take to everyone around them. Luckily, there are things you can do to help them adjust. 

Now that you’re a pet owner and you’ve brought them into their new home, they need to become familiar with their surroundings and socialized to who and what is around them. 

Socializing your dog is critical to having a pet that is happy, healthy, and friendly to other animals and people.

Why socializing your dog is important:

Helping your puppy or dog acclimate to all kinds of sights, sounds, and smells in a loving and positive way can prevent them from being fearful of children, other dogs, or of riding in the car, for example. 

This is important for the safety of your dog, yourself, and other humans that might want to interact with your dog in the future. But dog socialization is also important to the quality of life of your friend on four legs. 

Putting it simply, when a dog is socialized properly, they can live a better life. If a dog is unafraid of the people and things they see daily, and is therefore able to tag along on walks, trips to breweries or parks or anywhere outside of the house, they lead a happier life. They are less likely to experience stress and anxiety in their daily life.

How to socialize your dog:

You should try to socialize your dog with humans as well as with other dogs. Follow our three tips to socialize your companion.  

A note about age: It’s important to socialize a young puppy to shape their view of the world positively. It’s best to socialize your puppy in the first few months of their life at home. 

While puppy socialization is important, a dog is never too old to be socialized—or “reintroduced” to sights, sounds, and smells. When re-socializing a dog that is no longer a puppy, supervise carefully and use positive praise (and treats!) to help them associate their surroundings with good things.

1. Introduce them slowly and carefully to a variety of settings

• Let them meet family and friends on a one-on-one basis, in a calm, quiet room. 

• Introduce them to other household pets slowly and thoughtfully

• Take them on daily walks and observe their body language when meeting a new person or an unfamiliar dog. Let them sniff from a distance before getting close and keep them on a short leash just in case either animal gets too excited. 

• Take them to a dog park--but don’t go in yet. Walk them around the outside edges so they can take in the smells, sights and sounds of other dogs at play. 

• Bring them to a variety of places where they can see, hear, and smell different things. While they’re out with you, introduce them to as many people as possible! Let them pet your dog if they are comfortable. Try to get them comfortable around different types of people (young children, seniors, in wheelchairs, on bikes, in hats, etc.). Teach them how to greet people and then lie down with a toy. Great places to go include: 
      o Work (if possible)
      o Outdoor cafes or coffee shops
      o Pet food stores
      o Hardware stores that allow dogs
      o Beaches and parks that allow dogs

• Use treats to reinforce good behavior. If your dog is doing great–or feeling a bit unsure about a new experience–feel free to give them treats along the way to indicate a positive experience.

2. Enroll your puppy or dog in a training class

Introductory puppy and dog classes—whether they’re obedience classes or agility training—are great places to socialize your dog or puppy. 

Your dog will learn new tricks and learn to pay attention to you while other dogs are present. It’s a win-win!

In these training classes, there are typically other dogs that your dog can socialize with. This is a great opportunity for your dog to get used to being around other dogs regularly and in a casual setting. 

3. Handle your dog with loving care

Touch is an important part of dog socialization! You want your pup to get used to people handling them so they are comfortable in situations like going to the vet, trainer, chiropractor, or being in the care of a dog sitter or dog walker. 

It’s important for your animal to get used to your (and others!) kind and gentle touch. Pet their ears and cradle them in your arms regularly. Be sure to carefully touch their mouth, teeth, and paws whenever you get the chance.

Socializing a puppy or dog be a difficult process, but it is always worth the work! When socializing your new best friend, exercise caution. Every dog is unique, and it is important to watch carefully and alter your socialization process as necessary. If additional help is needed, be sure to consult your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer.

So, stock up on treats and get ready to get social with your pup. Practice makes perfect! 

And once the introductions have been made, and your new dog is settling in, it’s time to think about pet health insurance. To get a pet insurance quote and see our what our plans offer, from vaccinations, to emergency visits to routine care, visit directbenefits.com/pet-insurance.