Whether you have a rescue dog that is learning to trust humans or a new puppy, your need to make sure you are socializing him. Since it can be hard to know how to do that, here are ten ideas to get you started. It’s important to never push your dog into a situation that is making her stressed or scared, this will just cause problems. Instead, make sure all new experiences are positive and if you need help, consult a certified professional dog trainer.
#1 – Friends
For the really nervous dog or puppy who has not had all its vaccines yet, start at home. Invite friends who are quiet and dog-savvy over first. For dogs that are scared of men, start with women and then try to find soft-spoken guys who are smaller, as they will be easier for your dog to meet. Be sure to have plenty of toys and treats on hand so your dog pairs strangers with good things. Inviting well-mannered children over is great too.
#2 – Parks
Parks are great because of all the different people your dog can meet. If shy, go mid-week when kids are in school and fewer people will be at the park. Again, take plenty of toys and treats. Watch for signs of stress and try to leave before your dog has had “enough” or gets scared.
#3 – Schools or After School Programs
Getting a puppy used to children can be really challenging if you don’t have kids–where do you find them? Ask your local school or after school program if you can bring your puppy into a grade school class to talk about dog training, taking care of a puppy, etc. This is a unique way of getting your dog used to lots of kids, not to mention a hectic environment.
#4 – New Walking Spots
It’s easy to take your dog on the same walk around your own neighborhood every day, but it’s not the best thing for your dog. Instead, take time to drive your dog somewhere and walk him there – a new neighborhood, a new city block, a new park, etc. Doesn’t matter where, what does matter are the different smells, sights, and people he will meet. Same goes for pet stores, the local one may be convenient, but you should take him to the ones in the next town too.
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#5 – Overnight stays
Take your dog or puppy on overnight stays. Even if you have no trips planned now, doesn’t mean you won’t later. Practice by going to a nearby hotel for a night or a weekend. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, your dog doesn’t need the suite, you just need her to be used to the people, the elevator, noises coming from other guest rooms, etc.
#6 – Community Events
Be on the look-out for any events that happen in your community where dogs are welcome. Does not need to be a pet event—a lot of “art in the parks,” charity walks and even some summer movie events allow dogs to come. These are great events to take your dog to if they are pretty well-adjusted and just need more social time. These are probably not appropriate for a dog with a lot of fear or anxiety, as you may be a disruption.
#7 – Vet Office and Groomer’s
The vet office and groomer’s are scary places due to the smells, other animals and strangers that have to touch your dog. Help him by going to these places for social visits where he just gets attention and treats from the staff. This helps relieve the stress and gets your dog more comfortable with them.
#8 – Road Trips
Even if you can’t afford to spend the night somewhere, take day trips to new places like a nearby beach, lake, or popular hiking area. Research first and be sure dogs are welcome. Remember, the point is to socialized your dog with people as much as it is to get him used to new environments so chose a time to go when there may be some people (but not at peak times if your dog is not ready for crowds). It’s up to you and/or your trainer to know how much your dog is ready to handle.
#9 – Take Your Dog to Work
See if you can talk your boss into letting dogs come to the office at least once a week, on casual Fridays for example. At work your dog not only gets to be with you all day, but can meet a lot of new people.
#10 – Friends’ Houses
Next time your friend invites you over, ask if your new dog can come along. Learning how to visit other people is important and a great way to socialize your dog.