How To's

How to Socialise an Older Dog

Written by Nancy Boland

When introducing an adult dog into your home, it’s important to find out how socialised he or she is. Their initial reaction should tell you a lot – are they weary, fearful or aggressive? Do they back away, snarl or raise their hackles? On walks, is he nervous of other dogs, people or traffic? If you see any of these signs, it’s likely he hasn’t been socialised.

There are lots you can do to help improve socialisation, but it takes time, patience and consistency. So here are some top tips on how to socialise an older dog:

socialsing 2

Observe

  1. Go to a dog park but don’t go in.
  2. Allow your dog to watch the others and observe their behaviour.
  3. Every time a dog comes near the fence, give your dog a treat. This creates a positive association with other dogs.
  4. If your dog reacts aggressively towards the dogs, move further away and slowly move up until he is quiet.

Resist Tugging the lead

When out walking and another dog comes into view, resist jerking on the lead and getting frustrated with your dog when they pull. This reinforces seeing other dogs as a negative experience. Instead, distract your dog witha treat or toy, and praise him when he moves his attention elsewhere.

Go to Obedience Class

Dog obedience class is a great way to help socialize an adult dog before attempting going into dog parks or interact with other dogs.  Because your dog is focused on  learning commands, he is distracted most of the time. The trainer can help you slowly introduce your dog to others, and this is also a great place for your dog to learn how to interact with other people.

Socialising with other people

The first step is to socialize your dog with your family. This is best done slowly and with lots of patience. Once the family bond has been built up, then it’s time to introduce them slowly to others.

Mother and daughters in park with dog smiling

Ignore them

When your dog runs to hide from a stressful social situation, don’t go after them and force them back into it. Ignore them and do something that will persuade them to come out like playing with his toys. Dogs are social creatures and will eventually come out to survey the situation. Reward him with a treat once he does.

Be Cool

By acting as if your dog’s behaviour is no big deal, you’re creating a calmer environment and, thus, a calmer dog. So when he streaks under your legs because the postman is at the door, go on about your business as usual and don’t make a big deal out of his behaviour.

Introduce People Slowly

Only add one person a week at the most into your dog’s life. When they meet your dog, have them offer a treat and speak in a happy, low, encouraging voice. Keep your dog on a leash at first but do not force him to go near the person. Let him take his time.

The main thing to remember when socializing an adult dog is to be positive and to make each new experience a good one with praise and treats. In time, they will become at ease at home and in public.

About the author

Nancy Boland

I'm Nancy, owner of a very spoiled, one eyed Jack Russell called Basil. I'm a trainee veterinarian with a love for all things dogs. I'm especially passionate about dog adoption and always advocate rescue and enjoy writing about canine health and nutrition, alongside overall well-being tips for happy dogs!

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