Dogs are generally very social creatures who thrive on interactions with others. Being pack animals by nature, they need socialization with other dogs and humans to maintain their physical and mental health.
Without proper socialization, dogs can quickly become anxious, stressed, or aggressive. Socialization helps them learn how to interact in a positive, healthy way, reducing the risk of behaviour problems.
When a dog is stressed or anxious, his fight / flight / freeze response is activated by the amygdala, the part of the brain that acts as an interpreter of information and is responsible for a variety of chemical responses that allow the dog to react quickly and escape potential danger.
Because they naturally avoid exposure to the trigger that causes them fear, they never have a chance to realize that the trigger doesn’t actually pose any threat to them.
And, if you have an anxious dog, it’s important to help them overcome their fears (and yours) and learn how to relax and enjoy life’s adventures – in a positive way.
When socializing, it’s important to start slow and gradually expose new situations and stimuli. Begin with small steps such as introducing them to one new person or dog at a time. This helps them feel more comfortable and less overwhelmed.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to socialize a dog. Reward. Reward. Reward. Repeat. When your dog exhibits good behaviour and responds positively to new stimuli, reward them with treats, praise, and affection. This helps them associate positive experiences (and rewards) with socializing.
Enroll in Some Sort of Training
Enrolling your dog in obedience training helps them learn basic commands and improves socialization skills as they are exposed to many different things. (Men. Hats. Beards. Sunglass.) Training provides a structured environment where they learn how to interact with all sorts of dogs and people in a positive way. Remember though, they are not gonna love everyone they meet – do you?
Provide Plenty of Exercise
Daily exercise to drain their energy helps reduce stress and anxiety, and provides an opportunity for your dog to socialize with other dogs and experience life in a controlled environment. Try mixing it up a bit and change course – we all enjoy the brilliant mid day sunny walks but let them experience a late-night walk on a stormy evening or a sunrise hike in the rain.
Create Safe Space
Creating safe space for your dog helps them becomes feel secure and comfortable in their own environment. This could be an area in your house where your dog can retreat to when they feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed. We totally believe in crate training as a safe space, but Ditto likes the king sized bed better – it’s his safe space.
Consider Professional Help
Adopting a dog is awesome – you deserve a high five – but shelter dogs come with an ingrained set of responses to their past. If your dog’s socializing issues are severe, and you’re having difficulty socializing them on your own, consider seeking professional help from a dog behaviourist or licensed trainer. These professionals provide guidance and support for socializing an anxious or reactive dog.
Firm, Fair and Consistent
Socializing takes time, patience, and consistency. It’s important to be patient with your dog and to consistently expose them to new situations and stimuli. With time and effort, your dog will learn how to socialize in a positive and healthy way.
Socializing is SO important for overall happiness – theirs and yours. Be firm, fair, consistent, and your dog will overcome fears and learn how to socialize in a positive way. #worthit. You got this!
Reach out – we’re here and happy to help.