Many rescue dogs can be very timid and stressed out when around other people and animals, whether puppies or adult dogs. They tend to have trouble adjusting, and as their owner, it is your responsibility to step in and help socialize your furry friend in the best manner possible so that it can feel comfortable and relaxed.
You have a new puppy, and you’re excited to have a furry friend finally. You’ve been waiting for this moment for so long! One of the most important things about having a new pup is socializing them. Socializing your dog means getting it used to be around other people and animals in different places. This will make them confident as they grow up, which will make training easier.
How to Socialize Your New Adopted Puppy
New puppy owners: you’ve got a lot of work to do! And I’m here to help. I know that the most important thing is to socialize your new dog, and that’s why I put together these tips for how to get your new pup acquainted with the world around them. These tips will ensure they grow up happy and healthy with no fears or anxieties!
When to Start Socializing Your New Puppy
Socializing your dog is a vital step to its well-being and overall development. Unfortunately, early life socialization typically occurs for puppies between a few weeks of age to about four months old, and in some cases, you might miss that early window.
However, you still need to help your puppy become socialized. As a first-time puppy parent, it can feel challenging to socialize your rescue dog, but it is crucial for its well-being. Socialization helps with having it become well-balanced and less fearful of new situations while developing strong social skills.
What is socialization for a dog?
It is essential to thoroughly understand the aspects of dog socialization before you begin socializing. Socialization for puppies and adult dogs is the overall process of introducing the dog to new experiences. While this includes introducing your dog to new people, older dogs (and puppies), or other animals, it can also be a new environment or situation.
Most dog owners who acquire their dogs at the puppy stage can benefit from starting socialization early because the puppy is already becoming accustomed to learning about the world around them. However, owners might miss that early window when adopting a dog in some cases because it could be a puppy or an adult dog – but don’t fret! – your pet can still be socialized.
How to Socialize A Puppy
How you go about socializing your pup will depend on a few factors, some of which will include:
- History (if you can find this out from the shelter)
- Previous environment
For example, think about bringing your puppy into city life. You will need the dog to socialize with all of the sounds of busy streets, including vehicles and construction. These loud noises can cause dogs to feel stressed or anxious. On the other hand, if you are bringing the pup into a more rural location, there will be socialization with the surrounding area, possibly farm animals that might be nearby, and the quiet sounds of animals in the night.
With adopting a rescue puppy, you need to set your expectations very low. You will not have a dog that is necessarily comfortable or accepting of people and other animals, which you will have to work with them on overcoming. Your ultimate goal should be providing for your pup and allowing it to feel safe and secure when with you, and then you can work to slowly socialize it with other people, animals, sights, and sounds around you.
The other expectation is that because the socialization process needs to progress, it will take a lot of time and patience to acclimate your new dog.
Learn to Read Your Dog’s Body Language
You must first understand what signs indicate feelings of fear, stress, or anxiety with your rescue dog. Reading body language will become the best way to determine how the animal feels and whether you need to remove it from a situation or experience it quickly.
Socializing a rescue dog with unfamiliar sights and sounds is a process, and you need to let the dog be the one to set the pace. Gradually and slowly introduce your dog while exploring for any signs of discomfort or fear, such as:
- Flattened back ears
- Tail tucked under
- Licking nose/lips
- Yawning (this is an attempt to release tension)
- Whining or whimpering
- Aggression (barking, charging)
- Attempting to flee or dart away
- Hair standing up at the neck or end of the spine
If you witness any of these signs, quickly remove your pup from the situation and try again when your pup is calmer and accepting. You do not want your dog to associate anything negatively when you socialize with new people, other dogs, or experiences. All of these things need to be encouraging, positive associations for your rescue dog.
Important Tips to Socializing Your Adopted Puppy
Start With Short Interactions
If you force your new puppy into an unknown environment before they are prepared, they may relate the event or introduction negatively. Any more attempts to acclimate to the same situation might cause more problems.
Keep your initial introductions brief since new experiences or individuals may be overwhelming. Remember: They’re getting used to their new living circumstances with you and acclimating to their surroundings.
Initially, you might want to allow your dog to adjust to its new surroundings in your home. Then, you can introduce it to family members slowly, including children, to become familiar and feel comfortable. You also will want to socialize it with any frequent sounds such as a crying baby, car horns, lawnmower, etc.
Finally, once it has become familiar and accustomed to your home, you can slowly and gradually take it outside the home. Just ensure that before you introduce it to other animals or dogs, that your puppy is updated with the latest vaccinations from a veterinarian, such as a bordetella vaccine, and is allowed to be around other animals and in new environments.
An excellent example of introductions outside of the home will be if you plan to frequently take your dog to a local dog park, think about starting by only bringing them for very short visits at first. Then, you can introduce it to an older dog for a brief moment or so and then take it back home.
Please continue to do this for very short, five-minute visits for a week or two, and introduce it to only one other adult dog (or a dog that you know is friendly). If you can keep it on a regular schedule where you can visit the same adult dog, this can also be helpful for your rescue puppy to become more acclimated.
Eventually, you can start extending your visits and have your pup start to become introduced to more dogs. You can allow it to meet new people, sniff new things, or present it to a young dog as it becomes familiar with its new environment, and you can sense that it is more comfortable for more extended stays. A dog park is an excellent place for the socialization process, but you have to work your way up to it in a very gradual manner.
Provide Positive Reinforcement
When you socialize your adopted dog, focus on creating positive reinforcement with every introduction. Providing the best incentives and rewards like treats, toys, and pats on the head can go a long way for your pup to understand that these are all positive experiences.
You are the main focus for your rescue dog, so when you let the dog set the pace, you also have to provide it with the necessary encouragement to feel comfortable. When you take it to a new location or introduce it to an unfamiliar person, adult dog, or young dog, you need to do so with a calm, happy voice. Be patient and allow the dog to explore its curiosities while encouraging good behavior.
Stock Up On Treats
If your dog love treats, you can stock them with easy treats for your dog to use. String cheese, chunks of dried chicken, or small hot dog pieces are typically popular with dogs. Adjust your dog calorie intake during mealtime to compensate for extra calories during snack time. Tasty, high-end treats will have more mileage—my dogs love beef heart treats and pieces of cheese.
The Goal of Dog Socialization
Socialization also doesn’t mean put the dog in a new place and then watch what happened. Socializing involves initiating new situations with confidence and creating safe, beneficial experiences.
FAQS for Puppy Socialization
How do I socialize my dog with humans?
If you take your dogs out to public places and walk around, he’s more comfortable with the environment and people. Take different routes giving your puppy the chance to meet new friends and experience diverse sights.
Once a young puppy starts getting to know people already familiar, it will begin to trust new people it meets.
Do I need to do anything special when I socialize with my puppy?
When socializing with your puppy ensure that you go slowly and understand your puppy’s limits. Make baby steps and try not to do too much at once so that every encounter is an opportunity to make a positive association with your dog, so don’t stress yourself. Patience, high-quality treats, a calm demeanor, and a positive attitude are all you need.
What if my puppy isn’t fully vaccinated?
According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, “The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time, puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli, and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing overstimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal, or avoidance behavior. For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.”
How do I socialize with my older dog?
You can start by focusing on breaking old habits, behavioral issues, and negative associations before creating new ones. But patience is important, and older dogs generally learn less rapidly. In cases where your dog is terrified, you may require help from a dog behaviorist.
Can a dog trainer help with socialization?
Puppy Training Classes are a great way to improve puppy socialization. A good puppy kindergarten can help your puppy become comfortable with people. Your veterinarian or a neighborhood animal rescue will be able to help you find a preschool puppy. A puppy training class is a great way to start developing obedience skills, basic commands, and socializing with other puppies. Classes focus on positive reinforcement and make you involve in the training. Classes let your puppy have many experiences that can benefit their developmental potential as they age.
Choosing to adopt a dog provides you with the responsibility to care for it in the best way. With proper care, training, and socialization, your shelter dog will become a happy family member and a fantastic companion.