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Socializing my dog

Two dog-training factors most important to me include socializing my dog and exercising my dog. Basic commands such as sit, stay, down, come and heel are necessary, but so is socializing my dog.

Too many people buy dogs and then refuse to spend any money on training.

There are two reasons for this.

Either the person truly can’t afford the $50 for a basic obedience class, or the person already spent hundreds on the dog so another $50 on training is “not worth it.”

Both are huge mistakes and show a misunderstanding about dogs. Anyone unwilling to train a dog is lazy, unmotivated and should re-think why he has a dog.

Of course, some people are totally capable and willing to train their dogs. They train their dogs on their own or find help if they need it. This group understands the importance of commands in addition to exercise and socialization.

Taking a group obedience class or working with a trainer is an option, but so is training your dog yourself. The information is out there.

Whether you intend to train your dog on your own, attend obedience classes, read books or read a dog training blog, remember the importance of socializing your dog.

Elsie the golden retriever standing in the grass

Socializing my dog

Socializing a dog is very simple. Just take your dog to as many places as you possibly can. A dog that experiences as much as possible will be comfortable in most environments.

Children will not be a big deal, other dogs will not be a big deal. Your dog will be less likely to act aggressive, hyper or fearful. Your dog will not freak out when she sees bikes, Rollerblades, cats or squirrels.

A socialized dog can be trusted and easy to control in almost any situation.

Here are some tips for socializing a dog:

1. Start socializing your puppy immediately.

Your dog should experience something new every day, especially if you have a new dog or a puppy.

Be careful not to scare your dog by throwing her into a new situation too quickly.

At the same time, don’t shower an unsure dog with treats. This only rewards her for acting shy.

The most important thing for you to do is act like the new experience is no big deal. Your dog will pick up on that. Cars, other dogs, bikes, kids and water are nothing to get excited about.

Last month I brought my mutt Ace through a car wash for the first time. Ace was not concerned when we drove through that dark tunnel and our car was mauled by noisy scrub brushes and sprayers.

I knew it was because Josh and I showed no response. We did not talk to Ace or get him excited by saying things like “Are we in a car wash? Huh? Huh?” And we did not reassure him by saying, “It’s OK.” We simply did nothing.

2. Walk your dog every day.

There is no excuse not to do this. This is the easiest way to get your dog used to the world around her.

On walks, she will experience different sounds and smells. She will meet people and other dogs. She will see bikes, Rollerbladers and children. She will be used to cars, sirens, horns, buses and trucks.

3. Visit as many new areas as possible.

About a year ago I did a 30-day challenge where I took my dog somewhere new every day for 30 days. Good places to visit include the dog park, the vet’s lobby (even if you don’t have an appointment), grooming shops and pet stores.

Even if you don’t have an exact location to visit, just walking on a different street, visiting a new park or a new neighborhood is beneficial to your dog.

The best dog training collar for controlling your dog in new situations is the pinch collar or the dog Halti.

4. Meet as many dogs, other animals and people as possible.

This can be done on walks, by visiting new places and by inviting people over. Set up play dates with all your friends’ and family members’ dogs. Introduce your dog to cats and children, maybe even small animals.

Make sure to do it safely of course.

5. Desensitize your dog to loud noises.

Examples of noises that can scare dogs include the vacuum, traffic, motorcycles, children playing, sirens, whistles, thunder and gunshots. Sometimes a dog is terrified of fireworks.

The more noises your dog experiences, the better.

Remember not to make a big deal out of these noises. It’s important to be calm and act like you don’t hear anything. If your dog is unsure, then don’t push it. Try again another day.

6. Enroll in an obedience class.

I took Ace to a basic obedience class to get him used to walking close to other dogs.

I knew how to teach him commands, but walking in a small area with 10 other dogs was something I couldn’t create on my own easily. Obedience classes are not necessary, but they are very valuable for socializing your dog. Don’t overlook them.

7. Take your dog to dog daycare.

If you can afford to send your dog to dog daycare, it’s a great way for your dog to interact with other dogs.

Just make sure you tour the daycare first so you know it is a clean, safe place. Watch how the workers interact with the dogs. You don’t want your dog to be in a place where it’s pure chaos or he will be learning bad behavior.

8. Get your dog used to bikes and Rollerblades.

It’s no fun if your dog is aggressive around bikes. To prevent this, ask friends to bike, Rollerblade or push strollers by you while you’re out with your dog.

You can even walk your dog on one side while wheeling your bike on the other and eventually maybe even run her with a bike leash for dogs.

9. Invite people and dogs to your house.

You don’t always have to go somewhere to socialize your dog. Invite people over, and ask them to bring their pets.

10. Work to obtain the Canine Good Citizen Test.

Dogs that pass the Canine Good Citizen Test must prove they can be calm in various situations. Dogs are tested on how they respond to strangers, other dogs, walking through a crowd, sudden noises and more. Passing this test is a good goal for dog owners.

What are some ways you socialize your dog?

If you recently got a puppy, you may be interested in my post on puppy training tips.

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Friday 25th of May 2012

aww, look at the cute lltite old girly dog with her old lady beard!! Poor lltite Fable. We'll have to find an old pic of Trouser and see if we can decide whose tongue is the longest Trouser's or Figbert's. Of course, Figgy would win the Thanksgiving Cleanup Award over Trouser but who would win between him and Fable? The stuff of deep philosophical discussions. . .

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 18th of June 2009

Ross, so many of the dogs I see in shelters have little socialization. It's obviously a big part of why they ended up in a shelter in the first place. Your dog is lucky to have you!

Thanks Chris! Sometimes it's a very, very long process. That's why it's better if owners begin socializing puppies right away.

Thanks, Ty!

Ty Brown

Thursday 18th of June 2009

I like your bold advice. You're never afraid to call someone out and call them lazy if they aren't doing what's right.


Wednesday 17th of June 2009

I used to underestimate the importance of socializing your dog. I used to have a dog who was never socialized by its previous owner. Took a lot of work, but was never able to get to the point of being able to go to dog parks for example with much success. Good post.


Wednesday 17th of June 2009

When I got my dog from the shelter, she was in desperate need of training and socialization. Who ever owned her prior to me must have never potty trained her or any other training or socialization. I take her for daily walks to meet other dogs and people and I also take her to doggie play group. She loves it!. Shes getting better in the socialization dept., but still has a ways to go. I think she is an example of what happens to a dog when people that shouldn't get a dog get one. They end up in a shelter or sometimes worse.