Often we think of socializing dogs as only important for puppies. The truth is that dog socialization needs to be maintained throughout life. Here are some simple signs that your dog may need some work with healthy socialization and some tips you can use to promote a socially secure dog.
Basic signs of an anti-social dog:
- Shows fear or aggression with people
- Acts afraid of other dogs
- Misbehaves with other dogs (excessive fighting, humping, chasing, etc.)
These signs are symptomatic of a dog feeling social stress. It's sad for dog owners to see their dogs lacking confidence and living in fear. But even more serious, a dog that feels social stress is at risk of biting a person or fighting with other dogs.
Some simple tips to socialize your dog:
Maintain socialization throughout life
A dog's behavior can change at any life stage. The, once, socially acceptable dog can begin to exhibit new negative behaviors. A change in the home, such as the birth of a child, can sometimes be a cause for a behavioral change. Another cause is when a dog is away from contact with other dogs for an extended period of time. In both circumstances, the dog can develop insecurities and become fearful. Make sure to keep taking them on walks and take different paths, this will allow them to interact regularly with other dogs and other people.
Watch how you communicate with your dog
Dogs are intuitive and they rely heavily on non-verbal communication. Be sure that the way you behave around your dog does not promote stress, but rather, calmness. For example, when your dog is in a potential social situation, avoid becoming overly tense or excessively tightening the leash. When we do this, the tensions is transferred to the dog. Additionally, the rigidness of the situation reduces a dog's options and may actually foster aggressiveness. In a sense, we are then training our dog to be anti-social. Keep the lease loose and act calm.
Reward versus punishment
Reinforce good behavior with positive attention. Do not yell at your dog for barking or growling. Instead, transition to verbal praise and food (kibble), as a reward, when they behave well around other dogs and people. This will condition them to associate being social with good things. Socializing your dog can be fun, but it is important to have a strategy so you can be consistent. This will allow for more enjoyable interactions for you and your pet.