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The ideal time to socialize your dog is during his or her puppy years. This is because puppies are more receptive than older dogs. But there are plenty of instances where dogs don't get the proper socialization during this time or where older dogs need to be socialized again. So how do you socialize an adult dog? Here are some tips:
Walking your dog will provide him or her with plenty of opportunities to experience new sounds and smells as well as dogs, humans and other animals. With the increased likelihood of social interaction for your dog, you'll be able to practice proper socialization and behavior. If your dog is overwhelmed or responds in a negative way, simple walk away to remove him or her from the stressful situation.
One easy way to socialize your older dog is by inviting people over. Not only does this provide your dog with social interaction, it does so in a comfortable and familiar environment. Try to keep the mood positive, laid back and relaxed and make sure your guests do not overwhelm your dog. If your dog won't approach your guests, you can give them some treats to hand out. This will show your dog that your guests come in peace.
Remember that dogs can sense emotion - so when you're nervous, anxious or stressed, your dog might mimic your sentiments. Try to stay calm, confident and collected during social interactions through both your body language and tone. If you comfort your dog when they are afraid or upset, it teaches them that there is, in fact, something to be afraid of or upset with.
Sometimes, a dog needs more guidance than you can offer and that's okay. Fortunately, there are lots of people there to help! A professional dog trainer will be able to properly socialize your adult dog, as well as provide you with useful techniques for you to practice outside of your sessions.
Dog parks are all about socialization. But what makes them so great for dogs can also make them overwhelming for an older pup. To help your dog become comfortable with dog parks, start by walking them around the perimeter so they can observe the dogs from afar. Slowly work your way into the dog park by next approaching the fence and allowing your dog to sniff or interact with other dogs. The fence will provide a barrier that keeps your dog feeling safe and comfortable. Make sure to provide positive reinforcement through treats and extra love when your dog responds in a positive way. If your dog responds negatively, move away from the fence and try again later when they're calm again.
Remember, it may take several tries because older dogs take longer to adjust to new situations. The key to successfully socializing an older dog is patience, repetition and consistency.