Re-Socializing Your Dog
Do you have a “pandemic puppy” adopted from a shelter during lockdown? Maybe an “old soul” who has been pleasantly snoozing their way through the ups and downs of society over the past year. Either way, it’s important to ensure your pups are learning, or re-establishing proper socialization, now more than ever while our communities are open.
We’ve consulted with Derek, a lead trainer at Off-Leash K9, for some insider tips and tricks on re-socializing your dog to strangers in a group setting. Here’s what he suggests:
Start small, preferably with your closest family and friends who don’t have a close connection to your pet but who you know will be kind, understanding, and welcoming to your furry friend. The location is up to you, as long as all parties involved feel comfortable there! Maybe you start with having a single family member or friend over for a coffee date, then follow it up a week later by going to their place. Just make sure whatever you do, you do it gradually (both with time and with the number of people involved).
It also helps to arm yourself with your dog’s preferred method of praise and positive reinforcement (i.e., toys, treats, or just the understanding from your friends and family that your pup requires lots of pets!). Use snacks or games as opportunities for interaction between your pet and the other person. Stay close while you let your friend and/or family member play with your dog using the toy, giving them treats or, if they enjoy it, ear scratches.
As time goes on, include more people (as long as they are also comfortable convening in larger groups). Make the groups slightly larger, and consider meeting in neutral locations with third-party strangers, like a favorite park or pet-friendly location. We recommend Lowes, Home Depot, or sport stores, like Bass Pro Shop – employees love to interact with the animals that come in to shop, and these provide great instances for new, small interactions. Make sure, if you opt into locations like this, that the store allows pets, and you go into the situation familiar with your dog’s socialization status. For example, a dog newer to socialization will do better at a sporting goods store mid-week during the day when it is less crowded than at a Home Depot on Father’s Day weekend. Always opt-in for the quieter times first, working your way up to bigger social events as you and your pup feel comfortable.
Signs to Watch For
When in doubt, slow it down. Don’t overwhelm your dog with people and interactions. You know them best, so you’ll know the signs of overwhelm better than anyone, but in general, it is good to look out for the following, which may indicate stress in your dog:
- Low growls
- Shying away
- Pulling back
- Consistently tucked tail
When in doubt of how your dog is handling any given situation, always default to professional help. It’s closer and easier than you think!
Whether you have already been training with your dog or need to start training to get them integrated with your crew, Off-Leash K9 is here for you.