Ask the Expert: How Do I Socialize My Dog With New People?
Most animal experts agree that it’s critical to socialize your dog when they’re between three and 14 weeks old. Shortly after this phase, lots of dogs go through a “stranger danger” phase where they become more wary of new people. Socializing your pup shows her that most people are friendly and trustworthy. Here are some tips for helping your dog become a social butterfly!
Watch your dog’s body language
Any time your dog socializes with a friend, new or old, be sure to watch her body language. Is she happy and playful or feeling insecure? If it’s the latter, make sure to remove her from the situation immediately so as to avoid further stress.
If you had friends who always came ready with snacks, chances are you’d be perpetually excited to see them. It’s the same way with dogs and treats! If you want to introduce a person you trust to your pup, have him or her give your dog a treat when they first meet. This helps teach your pup about trust and positive reinforcement.
Make a safe space
If you have visitors coming to your house, it’s never a good idea to force your dog to interact with guests. Create a safe place (like a crate decked out with comfy cushions) for her to hang out away from the guests if she feels overwhelmed.
These steps don’t just apply to young pups; older dogs can also learn to better socialize with people. If dogs have positive experiences with people when they are past the critical period for socialization, they can still develop strong, emotionally fulfilling bonds with people. Think about it like learning a second language later in life. It takes longer, it is harder and the brain processes the language differently, but it can be done.
About Dr. Jill
Dr. Jill Villareal lives and breathes all things pet. A doctor of Biology, Behavior and Neuroscience (with a Certificate in Animal Behavior), Jill is Senior Manager of Pet Sensory and Perception Insights over at Big Heart Pet Brands.
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