Anyone with kids knows just how important socializing your child is. We socialize our children so that they will become well-developed and well-rounded adults. Well, the same goes for our pets. Just like humans, dogs need to be socialized with other dogs, as well as other humans, and with Spring in the air, there’s no better time to get out and set up those play dates.
Socialization is key to raising a well-mannered dog. Like we do for our children, setting up play dates gives dogs a chance to meet, play and learn from one another. Play dates are also a chance for dogs to interact with strangers (i.e. other dog owners), learn to share, and become comfortable in new environments.
If, for example, you have a shy dog, he may be quite apprehensive around new people and dogs when outside of his own environment. On walks, you may see him avoid or cower away from others passing by. Your dog may be frightened if people approach too quickly or try to pet him. In these cases, you must build up their confidence. Arrange play dates, and continue to expose your dog to new encounters and experiences. Eventually, his comfort-zone will start to expand, and he will make new friends.
How to Socialize Your Pet
When seeking out play dates for your dog, be sure to choose locations that will allow him to exercise, play and interact with other dogs, as well as yourself and other people. But, have an exit plan. Socialization takes time, so be prepared to take your furry little friends home if you’re anticipating any problems; it’s ok if at first you don’t succeed.
Also, before you schedule your play dates, be sure that your dog is up to date on all of his vaccinations and is parasite-free. Just like when you send your child out to the playground, you don’t want your dog sharing or bringing home any germs.
Once you and your pooch are all up to date and have a plan, you’re ready to start socializing! Just stick with these areas of progression and Fluffy will be hanging with his friends in no time:
At-Home Play Date
If you and your pup are just starting to venture outside of your comfort-zone, start with an at-home play date with one of your dog’s friends (or one he’s familiar with). This familiarity is the best way for your dog to build his confidence since he already recognizes the sights, sounds and smells of his own environment.
Start with a short visit – 30 minutes to an hour. Limit the area and the toys they are allowed to play with to avoid any altercations from breaking out. Also, be prepared for any “accidents” that may end up on the floor, especially if you’re dealing with puppies. Remember, supervision is essential in order for both owners and pups to have an effective play date.
Walk in the Park
Once you’ve mastered the at-home play date, you’re ready to venture out to the park. Arrange a meeting at the park with a friend and their dog for a nice walk. While the adults catch up on gossip, your pups will learn to spend time playing on their leashes together and become comfortable with one another sitting side by side on a park bench.
Supervised Play Group
Adolescent and adult dogs do well in active and busy social situations once properly socialized. If you’re looking for a group, lots of doggie day care and training centers offer off-leash playtime for dogs and their owners (for a fee). Supervised play sessions, like those offered, can help you determine what is appropriate play behavior, how you and your dog interact with others as well as give you a chance to practice your recall.
If you feel your dog is comfortable and ready to interact with others without supervision (other than yourself), then it’s time to visit the local dog park. As with your initial play date, keep this visit short – just 15 to 30 minutes, and don’t force your pup into the mix; just let him take everything in at his own pace.
Over time, your dog will find his confidence, and eventually, he will come to look forward to his time spent with his new, canine friends.