No matter how much you love your pooch, you will feel uncomfortable when they constantly bark or growl whenever your best friend or family member comes to visit. Aggression against humans or other dogs should never be misinterpreted that your dog hates your friend or other dogs. Rather, it is a sign that he or she is feeling anxious or fearful-and that should worry you too.
These reactions are glaring signs that your dog may not have proper socialisation. Mind you, socialisation is not age dependent. You may find this behavior among puppies as well as adult dogs. Let’s face it, some adults still panic at the mention of parties. In fact, people tend to fear what they don’t know-and it is a similar experience with your furry friend. However, these fears can be subdued with proper socialisation.
The main aim of socialisation is to get your dog accustomed to everyday sights and sounds as well as smell. Without proper socialisation, things that should be normal will become strange to them and will create fear or anxiety which may bring about aggressive behavior as a response. Socialisation improves confidence which in turn helps your dog to make better judgment.
The right time to start socialising your dog
It is not cast on stone anywhere that socialising a dog must start from a certain age and end at a certain age. Depending on your source, you will likely see anything from 3 weeks to four months. However, one thing is clear; the earlier the better. Once your pooch is old enough to take a walk with you, you should start thinking about socialisation.
Just like humans, once a behavior is formed, it becomes harder for your dog to let it go. That is why it is easier to socialize a pup than an adult dog. But, bear in mind that if a dog was socialized as a puppy and never again as they grow into adult, it is still possible for them to become fearful again. In other words, socialisation should be a continuous affair. It is still possible to socialize an adult dog, but this will happen at a slower pace.
Steps to socialising a dog
Socialising your dog should start from the litter. By all means, try not to separate the litter until at least six to eight weeks. This is where they first learn how to interact with other dogs. Also, dogs that are allowed to live inside the home socialize better-because of the close knit interaction with humans-compared to dogs that live on their own outside the house.
Going on routine safe dog walking sessions is arguably one of the best ways to socialize your dog. Yes, ‘SAFE’ has to be emphasized for a number of reasons. Firstly, they need to be old enough and certified healthy by your vet for such activities. Secondly, you may need a leash hooked to a collar or dog harness to make sure they don’t stray away. If you are socialising an adult dog, a leash will also help you to restrain them from attacking people that they may see as threat.
Going to dog parks with your dog can also help in the process of socialisation. However, for the first few times it may be unwise to go inside. Just hang around and let your dog observe what is happening inside. Observe his or her anxiety level and only go in when you feel they are more relaxed with the environment.
If it is your first time of going to a dog park with an adult dog you recently adopted, it is OK to be worried that he or she may get lost in the crowd. One way you can prevent this from happening is by putting bandanas or pet bibs around his or her neck.
Socialisation can be a slow process and you should learn to work at the pace of your faithful dog. Bear in mind that it is just as difficult for them as it is for you. During socialisation, expect that your dog may bark at people or things. Don’t shout at them. It will sully the entire experience. Allow them to freely express themselves and gradually learn. Never forget, socialisation is a marathon, not a sprint.