You may have probably adopted an older dog with little or zero social skills to speak of, and you are wondering if an old dog can really be socialized.
Well, it’s quite possible to socialize an old dog, although it does take time and a good dose of patience and love. You’ll also need to be aware of a few things about the canine socialization process.
What is Dog Socialization?
Dog socialization is basically an on-going learning process where a dog learns to get along with other pets and people besides the owner. The process helps the dog to learn good behavior in different situations. A well-socialized dog spends time with adults and children as well as other dogs and pets in the same house.
In the wild, dogs grow up in packs and their socialization process starts from birth. The dog becomes a member of the community by interacting with other members of the pack through body language and verbal cues. As a pup, the dog learns about clear-cut boundaries to keep or risk getting thrown out of the community.
Domestic dogs also start the socialization as puppies. This is the process when the dog is between 4 to 12 weeks old. During this period, the puppy is instilled with social skills that will help it get along fine with humans and other dogs.
Socialization is an on-going process that continues throughout the dog’s life. This is why you can still socialize your old dog if you know how, regardless of the old cliché saying about the impossibility of teaching old dogs new tricks.
There are many reasons why that older dog you adopted seems to have missed out on the socialization process. The reasons are mainly to do with the previous owner of the dog and range from sheer ignorance, fear of getting the dog infected if left to interact with other people or dogs, and abandonment as a puppy to other thoughtless reasons such as wanting your puppy to grow into a more aggressive dog.
So How Do You Socialize an Older Dog?
Socializing an old dog is not as simple as teaching a puppy to get along with other members of the society, but it is possible with patience and persistence.
There are several simple methods of going about the socialization process for an older dog. Combining different methods discussed below will yield better results in a shorter time.
Here are some of the methods you can rely on to socialize your old dog.
Give Your Dog More Exposure to Other Dogs
This basically involves teaching your dog to observe and interact with other dogs in your area. There are several ways you can do this. You could start by taking your dog to a dog park and not entering for a few days.
Let the dog watch other canines playing and see their behavior from a distance. When one of the other dogs approaches or comes close to the fence, reward your dog with a treat to build a positive association with other dogs.
If your dog growls or shows unwelcome behavior towards the rest of the pack inside the park, simply move further from the fence until it calms down. In time, your dog will learn to associate friendliness with rewards and develop a more positive attitude towards other dogs.
Host a Small Gathering That Includes Your Dog
Let your dog know how to accommodate other people by inviting a few of your friends to your home for a calm evening entertainment centered around your dog. Allow your guests to give the dog gentle pats and treats.
The gathering will help to make the dog appreciate the presence of people in your home and initiate a process of interaction. It will also help the dog to understand that humans other than you and your family also give pats and treats.
Take a Walk with Your Dog
Get a friend, who owns an even-tempered dog, to join you on a dog walk. This will provide your old dog with a gentle, stress-free way to socialize with another dog. The dogs can stroll together close to each other without interacting, but as you take more walks over time, the dog will start to interact and relate. Exercising your dog is also a good idea; it helps to maintain good physical and mental health.
Attend Dog Obedience Classes
Your old dog can still learn commands even at the senior age. Dog training classes are run by expert trainers who will gradually teach your dog important lessons such as obedience and social interaction with humans and other dogs.
Socializing your dog, whether as a pup or full-grown Labrador, is an important process. A properly socialized dog knows how to relate with other members of the household, including children and other pets.
The dog will live a happier life. It is more approachable and capable of handling stressful situations better. A dog that is not socialized behaves like an antisocial human.
The dog can be extremely shy, cower before strangers or other dogs, show signs of anxiety or even become overly aggressive at all times due to fear and lack of social skills to deal with new people or unfamiliar situations.
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