You are your dog’s best friend and he is your best friend as well. But this should not mean he is your only friend, nor you should be your dog’s only friend – there are countless other people and puppies out there waiting to meet you and your best friend, why make them wait?
Before you go out to the streets and have fun in the dog park, you and your dog need to learn how to behave around other animals. That simple yet incredibly important process is called socialization – something that is often overlooked, even though it’s detrimental for your dog to do so.
What Is Socialization?
The socialization process is a time in a dog’s life when he or she is getting ready to be comfortable around other people and animals. This is crucial for a dog’s life, as it will prepare him to behave appropriately around other living creatures.
It is twice as important in big dogs, such as bullies, because of their size and strength – they need to learn how to behave to avoid any unnecessary accidents later on in their life.
Socialization is the first step in your dog’s education. He will learn to go potty and do tricks later on, but he first needs to know how to handle himself in all sorts of situations.
When you begin, he will learn to behave in a close, secure environment – like your house. Later on, the socialization process will take place in bigger spaces, like a park.
Everything should happen in due time and without you forcing it.
Why Is Socialization Important?
Socialization might be the barrier between having good experiences with your dog and fearing for your life every time you go out for a walk. It is of the utmost importance to teach your dog how to act and behave around other animals – otherwise, accidents might happen.
A dog can and will act unexpectedly in situations he is not used to be in. That’s why you need to socialize your dog and get him ready for most possible scenarios. This will not only ensure his safety and the safety of those around him, but it will also grant him a broader life experience – and a happier life as well.
What Is an Appropriate Way of Socialization?
The best thing you can do is start as early as possible. If you have a puppy, try to get different people around him as soon as possible.
That way, he’ll know being handled by different people is okay. You should always reward good behavior and discourage bad attitudes – but never with physical punishment!
Taking it one step at a time
Once your dog knows how to behave around your adult friends and family, you might want to try to socialize with toddlers and kids – as long as you are watching. You can also let him play with other animals – as long as they are vaccinated.
Do not try to do everything at once. Take it easy, there’s more than enough time to do this right.
Knowing when to stop
Sometimes, your dog won’t feel like socializing. Or the people around him will not want to do it. And that’s okay. You do not have to force socialization, you have to encourage it and wait for everyone else to accept it. Patience is the key.
Understanding the importance of rewards
Every time your dog gets something right or goes on a streak of being a good boy, let him know! Use verbal cues, pets, and treats to encourage good behavior. Rewards are important, especially when you trying to encourage a good attitude.
Understand adult dogs might take a little bit longer
If you have adopted an older dog, that’s great! They are great, loyal companions. Unfortunately, if they haven’t been socialized, it will take a little bit longer than it does with puppies – but this does not mean you won’t accomplish it! On the contrary, adult dogs will take a little bit of time to pick up social cues, but in the end, they’ll know them by heart!
What Happens If You Don’t Socialize Your Dog?
Not socializing your dog, or underestimating its importance, is borderline criminal. Not only your dog will have a poorer life quality, but it will also be terrible for his mental health.
Dogs are social animals and they need to spend time with other dogs and other people to be happy and content. And even if it wasn’t necessary, it makes your dog happy – why wouldn’t you want to do it?
When it comes to larger breeds, like bulldogs or pit bulls, the strength factor comes into play. When big dogs don’t know any better, they tend to not know how to pull their strength back – potentially harming other people and animals. Especially if they are not used to the excitement of meeting new friends, that’s when a good thing can turn into a tragedy.
It’s always recommended to socialize your dogs, even if it seems like hard work. The reward is ten times bigger than the cost!
Is It Ever Too Late to Socialize Your Dog?
It is never too late to socialize your dog. Deciding your dog is too far gone or too old to be socialized is giving up on him for no good reason at all. What you might realize is that, even though no dog is too old for socialization, it might be harder to undergo this process the older he is.
Here are a couple of things you should take into consideration if you are having a hard time socializing an adult dog:
1.) Walk your dog daily and introduce him to other dogs out there
The best thing you can do is take him for a walk every day. The more he is out there, the more he will get accustomed to other people and dogs.
It might be hard at first and you’ll have to control a dog going wild every time he sees another dog or when he tries to climb on top of everyone passing by – but the more you control him, the more he’ll understand.
2.) Go out of your way to do social activities with your dog
Once your dog knows how to handle himself in certain situations, it’s time to take him out to different places.
Going to the park, going to dog-related events, and whatever you have nearby to let your dog experience new things where he can be both tested and trained.
3.) When in doubt, use a muzzle
If you fear your dog might bite someone, it’s okay to use a muzzle to prevent any nasty developments. It might scare other people, but it is better to be scared than to be bitten. All in all, it’s a good thing to do until things are under control.