Pet owners keep hearing that dogs need to be well socialized. But what does that mean and how can you socialize your dog? However, many dog schools had closed during the pandemic. Find out more about the important socialization phase of your puppy and a young dog here. But even older four-legged friends or dogs that come from animal welfare can still be socialized with patience and consistency.
When one speaks of a well-socialized dog, this means that the animal has already learned as a puppy to communicate appropriately with conspecifics, but also with other living beings. He knows how to interpret the communication signals and behave correctly about them. At the same time, the dog can react confidently to its environment and changing situations and deal with them quite calmly. Regardless of whether a baby suddenly cries next to him or the tram passes him, unexpected events, unknown people or noises are usually not a problem for a well-socialized dog. He goes through life with you relatively fearlessly, although he still has possessed natural caution.
In short: a well-socialized dog is a reliable partner with whom you can easily cope with everyday life. Anxious and unsupervised dogs can start barking in unfamiliar everyday situations, flee in panic or become aggressive, which makes the normal daily routine exhausting and problematic for you, but also the dog.
Socializing Dogs: Why Is It So Important?
At the age of four to around 20 weeks, puppies are particularly receptive to new stimuli, people, and situations. If you are confronted with new things in this phase of your life and if you experience this as positive, you will also save what you have experienced. Of course, this also applies the other way around: negative experiences are remembered and lead to the dog avoiding them or reacting anxiously to them.
As a rule, the puppy comes to you from the eighth week of life, i.e. around four weeks after the start of the socialization phase, possibly a week or two later. A good breeder will give you a dog that has already met other dogs, people, and all sorts of environmental stimuli by the fourth week. You have to continue the work of the breeder from the moment the puppy moves in with you.
Since dogs are going through a sensitive phase between the eighth and tenth week when they move in, in which they approach new things more cautiously and cautiously, you should be particularly careful when the puppy moves in. Give your new family member enough time to explore the new environment and get to know the people and animals living in the household. Don’t overwhelm the dog with excessive attention or pressure the puppy. When the dog has settled in after a few days, you can slowly and step by step familiarize him with the things and situations that he will encounter again and again in everyday life in the future.
Socializing dogs: tips and tricks for everyday life
- Take your time to think about the situations, noises, technical devices, surroundings, and creatures the dog will be confronted with within your everyday life. This can be the sound of the vacuum cleaner running, riding the bus, or dealing with small children. Introduce the dog to these new things bit by bit and make sure these encounters are positive for the puppy.
- Take the puppy on a variety of trips. This can be a trip into the country where the dog gets to know sheep or cows, or a trip into the city where it has to get used to a large number of people, an elevator, or an escalator. Do this slowly and patiently and protect the dog from being overwhelmed.
- Also, confront your animal companion with the most different types of people and the type of human communication. Later the animal mustn’t be afraid of tall men, physically challenged people, or small children.
- Walk the dog on different surfaces in different environments. This can be a walk in the forest, visiting a sports field, or running over metal bridges.
- Find a good puppy school in your area and attend a puppy course. Here your four-legged friend learns how to deal with and communicate with other conspecifics of different breeds with different characters. In addition, joint exercises promote the bond between dog and owner. The exchange with the dog trainers and other dog owners will help you to interpret and understand your dog better.
- As important as dog training and socialization is, remember that you and your dog should have fun doing it. Never put yourself and the dog under unnecessary pressure and approach the whole thing positively and with joy.
Expert tip from the editors:
Dogs learn a lot from each other, which is why dog encounters in the playgroup or in the park are good for the time being. However, in the case of disputes between the animals, beware of the assumption that “the dogs will settle it among themselves”. This assumption is a legend. Intervene as soon as you see your dog terrorizing or victimizing another. Bad experiences with conspecifics can be traumatic!
How to train a senior dog
Of course, young dogs learn faster than adults. They are more curious and learn more playfully. But the good news is: Dogs learn for a lifetime. Just as a gray snout can get used to begging, for example, if it brings them success, this behavior can also be trained out of them. The advantage of training an older dog is that it is usually already housebroken, calmer, and no longer allows itself to be distracted by external stimuli – because it already knows them. His upbringing is more complicated because his behavioral patterns have solidified over the years. Consistency and patience are required – especially from you!
Is your four-legged friend aggressive towards other dogs or people? Does he keep barking? Does he make a mess in your home if you leave him alone? Then go to a dog trainer and together with research the reasons why the dog is behaving this way. As soon as you know them, it is easier to counteract them with training.