Noun: Having fun with your dog exploring the world in a positive way! Take your dog to see, hear and smell new people and places. Let them explore by climbing in, on and around different things like fallen trees and playground equipment. Take you your dog to meet and greet all kinds of people.
Socialization is not just about letting your pup play with other pups, although that is a great start!
Check out these top 10 to-dos you can enjoy with your pup while you work on their socialization skills:
1) Hide and seek at home
You’ll want to teach your pup how to not only chase and find you but find toys you’ve hidden around the house. The object of this game is to acclimate your pup to different rooms around your home, different floors like carpet, linoleum, tile, and wood. Each room will have a different feel. Many dogs have difficulty walking on slippery flooring. Teach them that slippery floors aren’t so scary by laying a trail of treats throughout the room and encourage them to explore.
2) Parkour at the Park
Getting your dog to stop using your couch as a jungle gym can sometimes seem like a challenge. If they want to race around the house and spring from one piece of furniture to the next take your pup to the park and explore things to climb on or over. Introduce obstacles, like playground equipment or fallen trees on hiking paths, go slow and always reward your dog for trying something that seems a bit scary at first. A pup that prances around the house might be a little intimidated outside their home surroundings.
3) Field trip to a friend’s house
Traveling in the car with your dog can be scary sometimes. Take them on short car rides to places close by to meet family and friends. They’ll start to make a positive association with car rides and get the chance to socialize off their home turf with a variety of people.
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4) Puppy play dates
Instead of taking your dog to a dog park, where it can be overwhelming and sometimes dangerous for a young dog to get exposure to other dogs, set up a play date with one or two dogs around your dog’s age and size. You can post to your friends on your social media account and request a play date for your dog or you can ask your Vet if any of their clients have a dog they’d like to socialize.
5) Adventurous outing
After you’ve hit up the park it’s time to take your pup to dog-friendly shops and stores to explore. You can teach your pup how to relax and have good manners in public. Make sure your dog is on a leash but be aware that they may find this environment overwhelming at first. Bring lots of tasty treats to encourage and praise good behavior. For the first few outings keep sessions short and leave them wanting more instead of heading home stressed.
6) Calm car rides to the Vet (or groomer)
Since the Vet’s office and the groomers tend to be scary places because shots are given, nails are trimmed or baths and haircuts are done there, talk to the pet professionals in your area and see if they’ll let you pop in just to say “hi.” Taking your dog to the Vet’s office and groomers for fun can help ease your dog’s fears when they really need to go to their regular appointments. If you only take your pup for what they consider scary appointments they will regularly have a negative association with those places.
7) Tricks & training classes
Going to a group class will give you and your pup the opportunity to learn and work around other people, dogs, and distractions. Although most group classes aren’t designed to be a social hour you can help your shy dog come out of their shell just by working and rewarding them while having some fun in a learning environment.
8) Beach bum
Sunbathing is for humans but checking out the sights, sounds and smells with your dog at the beach will be enjoyable for both of you. You’ll both enjoy the sand between your toes and the refreshing water to play in. Your dog will get the chance to experience playing in the water while sending their sniffer into overdrive as they search the shoreline. Don’t force your dog into the water. Let them chose when to get their toes wet. Pulling them in can make them more afraid of the water so let them go at their own pace.
9) Strangers at the pet store
Head to the pet store and work on saying hello politely to other people and their dogs. Don’t allow your dog to lunge at the end of their leash to say hello. This is not only bad manners but can actually scare or set off other reactive dogs.
10) Treat Tasting
Taste is the most important of the 5 senses; at least your dog thinks so! As long as your dog doesn’t have food allergies give them different foods with different textures. You can use puzzle toys to really make them work for those treats. Try, mashed banana, crunchy carrots, apples and cucumber, sticky peanut butter and dehydrated sweet potato crisps.
Remember socialization is about creating a fun, positive experience while working on exploring the 5 senses. Get your dog out and about not only to work on manners and training but to expose them to people, places, and adventures. Keep your dog on a leash in case they are afraid. A dog’s natural response to fear is to run away. You don’t want to drag your dog closer to things they are uncomfortable with and you don’t want them to run away. Make each session as positive as possible and remember just because you like something doesn’t mean your dog has to also!