Six Ways to Make Anxious Dogs More Social
We all want to be able to take our fur babies wherever we go, and it can be a pain when they aren’t as well-behaved as they need to be. Socializing your dog makes it easier for them to experience new sights, sounds and smells—making them the ultimate travel companion.
Getting your dog to come out of its shell may be time-consuming, but you can easily fit it into your regular routine and make the process smooth for both you and your four-legged friend.
In the long-run, socializing your dog will lower their stress levels and make common activities, like trips to the vet or laps around the dog park, a lot more fun for both of you. Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if you’ve adopted an adult dog or brought home a three-week-old puppy, there are still plenty of effective ways to teach all dogs new tricks.
It can be awkward to introduce a skittish or anxious dog to someone new to the both of you, which is why the best people to introduce your dog to the ones who already know you and your pup.
Slowly, start inviting over friends or family members for your canine to get acquainted with in the place that they feel safe. Make sure to ask them to approach your dog calmly and let your pup come to them. This will help your dog feel in control of the situation and make it easier for them to transition into unfamiliar ones. If you want to coach your dog even more, ask if your guests have any friendly pups of their own to bring along.
Give your dog some good exercise and some great interaction time by letting them stretch their legs outside. Walks around your neighborhood are the best first steps to take to gauge how much interaction your pup can handle beyond your home.
Once they’ve grown accustomed to the sights and sounds around the block, you can spice up the location and see how your dog handles the beach or your favorite pet-friendly trail.
Praise is the best treat of all, but actual dog treats taste pretty good too. Having some extra treats on hand is a great way to reward your pup after a successful interaction with someone new.
Treats are also a good source of distraction for when your dog isn’t on its best behavior. If your dog is excessively barking at others, don’t pull on their leash because it’ll only bring negative association to the encounter.
Instead, lead their attention somewhere else with a treat and a command like, “Look here, Fido!” It might seem counterintuitive to reward them in these moments, but just like teaching them how to sit, it will make it easier to eventually redirect their attention without having to use the treat.
If your hands are tied and you don’t feel like you have the time to start the socializing process on your own, there are a ton of great programs to get dogs acclimated with other pups. Taking your dog to a training class will help make them more approachable because of the healthy, contained interaction and it will get them accustomed to dealing with new two-legged friends as well. Instructors are trained at handling dogs of all temperaments, so you can be confident that your pup is in good hands.
The same goes for doggie daycare. Some daycares even have assessments to determine if your dog is ready to mingle with all the others or have designated areas for dogs of certain social levels. If you aren’t sure which programs are right for your dog, you can always ask your veterinarian for advice.
Your dog feeds off of your energy, so try and be as positive about the process as you can. If you react well to meeting someone new, your dog will understand that there isn’t any danger present. Similarly, don’t be afraid to say hi to other dogs and let yours know that there isn’t anything to be afraid of.
More importantly, you’ve got to stay calm when your dog isn’t making the progress you want to see. Try to not show negative emotions in situations where your dog is acting out or not responding well, because meeting their stress levels is only going to make the encounter memorable in the wrong way.
Stress can take a toll on your dog if it’s too much at once. You should always check and make sure that they’re learning, but not struggling. If you feel like your dog isn’t able to adjust, scale your steps back and take it as slow as they need. Even if you have to start with something as small as letting them watch dogs on the other side of the fence, it’s a good foundation to get the ball rolling.
The most important thing is to not give up because it’ll only confuse your dog and lead them to forget all the progress they’ve made. If they don’t have a consistent system and a partner by their side, it’ll always be hard to take them along for the ride.