How To Go About Socializing An Adult Dog
One of the main reasons why people choose to adopt puppies instead of full-grown, adult dogs – except the obvious one of them being so darn cute – is that they’re much more malleable and more eager to learn than an adult dog is. We all know that the old saying goes “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and to a certain extent, this is very true. Puppies have a sensitive period between 3 and 20 weeks when they’re very accepting of new people and animals, as well as new places. As your dog grows older, however, he or she gets accustomed to a certain pattern of living and it’s much harder to break that.
So what are you supposed to do if you decide to adopt an adult dog? Should you socialize them with other people, other animals? Naturally you’d want your dog to be as happy as it possibly can, and if you’ve ever seen dogs playing together before, you know that’s what pure happiness looks like.
One thing to remember is that getting an adult dog to successfully socialize with people and other dogs is completely different than socializing a puppy. As said, puppies are very accepting of new things during this critical time period, so it’s relatively easy to socialize them. It’s an easy formula: expose them to new things, and then if their behavior is adequate, you reward them with a treat and praise them to encourage that sort of behavior. By doing this, the puppy will keep those happy times etched in their memory and will experience feelings of joy every time he or she performs those activities. The process will go even more smoothly if more stimuli is constantly introduced during the first year of the puppy’s life.
However, when trying to socialize an older dog, you might have to dig a little deeper to properly understand their behavior and how to correct it. A dog who hasn’t been socialized as a pup, when introduced to the same method you’d use to socialize a puppy, will often react in a catastrophic manner. An adult dog who is socially mature generally doesn’t enjoy being in large groups of dogs, especially if they’re unfamiliar to him/her. They might even show signs of aggression, barking, snarling etc. While not the case with all adult dogs, this is very common behavior, especially for a dog that hasn’t been socialized as a pup.
The first step you should take in socializing an adult dog is making sure to teach them to behave calmly on walks, instead of playing with other dogs at the park. Use treats to encourage calm behavior in the presence of other dogs, just make sure that you’re at a safe distance, just in case. If they happen to bark at another dog, simply take his attention away from the other canine and reward him for responding to his name and sitting quietly. It’s not absolutely necessary to introduce your pooch to every dog that walks by, and this might even be counter-productive at times.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that a dog who acts aggressively towards other dogs is dominant and needs to be punished because of that. However, things are not at all that simple. Dogs are aggressive when they are stressed or frightened for themselves or their territory, and this is perfectly normal behavior. If a dog is so stressed that it’s pushed beyond its limits it may even lead to injury, and you don’t want that. Dog psyches are a bit more complicated than we make ourselves believe, so if you’re uncertain why your dog’s behaving a certain way, it’s best to contact a behavior and training professional to get their opinion on it.
And finally, perhaps the most valuable piece of advice you can follow is that you should only socialize a dog if he or she is enjoying it. Listen to your pet’s body language and protect him from any potentially unwanted contact, and you’ll spare both him and yourself a lot of grief. Forcing a dog into socialization when they don’t feel like it often does more harm than good, and it might lead them to resent other animals even more. A dog’s life can be just as fulfilling without the company of other dogs, as long as you tend to their other needs properly.
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