Are You Forcing Socialization?

Perhaps you’ve heard it’s vitally important to socialize your new dog or puppy to help set them up to be confident, well-adjusted dogs. However, simply increasing exposure to scary or threatening things is not “socialization.” If your dog doesn’t enjoy other dogs, taking him to a dog park or dropping him off at a daycare to simply increase his exposure to other dogs is not a good solution for making your dog more social or comfortable.

Walking your dog daily and on leash would be a better way to get him comfortable to new sights, sounds and other dogs and people. This way you have the ability to pair the new experience with something the dog likes (a yummy piece of food or perhaps a game of tug). Observe your dog’s behavior when around other dogs and people. If your dog is showing relaxed, happy signs of playfulness, then slowly approach. If dogs show signs of discomfort or fear (stiff, tense posture, showing teeth, hiding) move your dog away from the dog or person.

This dog is displaying body language that she’s not comfortable.

Please don’t force your dog into an introduction with another dog or person. Instead, find a quiet spot to stop, sit and allow your dog to observe the sights and sounds around them. Instead of forcing an introduction, spend happy fun time interacting with your dog. Provide lots of yummy treats and play while in the presence of other dogs or people. Effective socialization doesn’t occur when forced.

Seek help from a professional dog trainer who uses positive training techniques if your dog does not improve with continued efforts. Group training classes or one-on-one training with a trainer who uses force-free training techniques is a good way to safely and appropriately socialize your dog or new puppy.

Kay Mizell is a Pat Miller Level 1 dog trainer, a certified Dog*tec dog-walker and professional pet-sitter.  She is trained in pet first aid and carries the designated Pet-Tech First Aid/Canine CPR caregiver. Kay is also a dog trainer-volunteer working with detainees and their foster dogs with the “Rescued Program” at the Colwell Probation Detention Center in Blairsville, GA.   She continues to seek out and attend educational workshops, seminars and conferences in all things “dog” with a singular focus on making Camp Happy Dogs the safest, happiest and most loving “home-away-from-home” for your dog.

Lisa Lyle Waggoner is the author of The Original Rocket Recall™: Teach Your Dog to Come. She’s a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior, a dog*tec Certified Professional Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. The company’s trainers enjoy providing virtual behavior consulting and training solutions to clients around the globe and offers coaching, mentoring and behavior case support for pet professionals.


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