How to Socialize a Puppy, an Adult, Aggressive, Scared Dog: an A to Z Guide to Dog Socialization

If you’ve been asking yourself “how to socialize my dog?” a lot, then you came to the right place. My name is Matthew Farthing, and I’m a certified dog behavior consultant, trainer, and health expert. Today I’m going to tell you all the essentials about dog socialization.

I would like to note that I’m a happy owner of three huskies. These dogs are the inseparable part of my life. However, I’ve been through a lot of trouble during their puppy socialization stage, as this breed is extremely active and sometimes even hectic. Thus, I am an experienced dog owner myself, and I am happy to be one.

With all my experience, I have prepared you a lot of useful info on how to socialize a dog. You will be able to get familiar with not just a puppy socialization checklist, but also learn about how to socialize an older dog, aggressive, or unsocial one. Let’s start!

How to Socialize a Puppy

Running puppy

It’s worth saying that the younger your dog is, the easier it is to socialize it. So, this is the best period for you to work on it.

If you are just planning to get a puppy or already got one, then you should tackle this aspect. It’s paramount to teach a puppy right away if you want to achieve tangible results. The puppies are like a sponge that soaks in all the information about the world around.

Check out the points below on how to socialize your dog at a young age and what are the best practices:

  • Do your best to make all the new experiences of your dog as positive as possible. While your puppy is exploring the world around, you should monitor it all the time. You must ensure that your dog has an only positive experience from discovering this world.
  • Even if your puppy is not vaccinated, it still can safely explore this world. Try to invite home as many friends as possible and let your puppy get acquainted with them. Exposing your dog to other people is extremely beneficial when it comes to socialization. If your friends have healthy vaccinated pets, they are welcomed as well. This way, your puppy will be able to learn how to play with other animals. You can even take your puppy to a friend’s home, which will be an even more exciting experience.
  • After vaccination, feel free to take your pet to the park or any other public place. Also, take your pet to car rides with you (even short ones around the block), so it can get used to a vehicle and not be scared afterward.
  • You need to take your puppy to the vet’s office. Let your dog get used to it, smell things, get acquainted with the environment and your vet. Let your veterinarian give some treats to the dog. Usually, the appointment takes only 10 minutes. If you do this from time to time, your dog will be completely comfortable with this place.
  • Try to expose your puppy to your everyday household activities. Vacuum cleaner, TV, hairdryer, it all might seem daunting at first, but then your puppy will get used to these objects and sounds they make.
  • Puppy classes can be a great option for you. You will not just get training and priceless info about how to keep your pet healthy and protect it from diseases. But it’s also a nice chance to take your dog to a new environment.

Keep in mind that people quantity doesn’t matter in this case. All you have to take care about is that your puppy gets happy and positive experiences. Don’t forget to praise your pet, give it some treats. Remember to give your dog some space, so it can explore new things when it’s ready for this step.

Opportunities for puppy socialization are immense, though there are some restrictions:

  • Don’t take our puppy to places with stray aggressive dogs.
  • The same rule applies to places with aggressive or drunk people.
  • Don’t leave your puppy alone for a long time.
  • Don’t leave it in a place when your puppy is unwelcomed, uncomfortable or frightened.

How to Socialize an Adult Dog

German shepherd lying on the grass

Some people ignore such an aspect as socialization, though it can cause a wide variety of problems if not developed properly. People can neglect this point for multiple reasons. For example, they want to raise an aggressive dog, some owners are scared of infections that a dog can get outdoors, and a simple ignorance or abandonment can also be a reason. Socializing an adult dog is much more difficult than doing it with a puppy.

If you didn’t get the chance to do this before, but you still want to catch up, here are some tips that will give you a hint on how to socialize an old dog. It’s never too late to do, so consider the following tips:

  • If you are at the beginning stage of the dog’s socialization process, use a muzzle (especially when we speak about large breeds) to avoid potentially dangerous incidents. Let’s make this process safe for all people and animals around. Keep in mind that dogs feel well people’s mood and pick it up. So if you and people around feel relaxed and comfortable, your dog will have similar behavior.
  • Take your dog for long and frequent walks. It should get used to new people, animals, smells, views, and so on. If your dog starts acting nervous, give it some treats to calm it down and distract attention for a little bit. Walk the dog away from the situation that makes it feel uncomfortable.
  • The next stage is taking your pet to a dog park. But first, simply walk around the place, so your dog can watch others playing from a distance. Once your dog gets used to it, you can try to walk in the park and approach other animals little by little.
  • Invite people over but take care of that your friends do not approach your dog closely or overwhelm it with attention. Things should be moving slowly. Remember that an older dog needs much more time for socializing.

How to Socialize an Aggressive Dog

Angry husky

Dogs should be socialized at the age of 3-14 weeks. If you have missed this period, some aggressive traits might appear. If your dog wasn’t treated kindly at the young age, it could also provoke aggressive behavior in adulthood. Some breeds tend to be more aggressive than the other. All factors can be crucial; however, it’s possible to work on behavioral improvements despite that it requires a lot of time and efforts.

Work seriously on dog’s discipline. It’s paramount not to be frightening or too harsh because your task is to keep discipline as gentle as possible and not provoke your dog further. In case your dog starts acting more peacefully and friendly, don’t forget to praise it.

You can also try out some methods described for adult dogs. If they do not work as expected, it will be better and more effective to turn to professionals. They definitely know how to make an aggressive dog more calm and relaxed. Dog trainers know all about temperaments and body language to make the process of socialization much faster and easier.

If your dog wasn’t aggressive before and suddenly became one, the first thing you should do is to take it to your veterinarian. Some health issues could potentially be the cause of such a sudden flash of anger. These include injuries that you’re not aware of, hypothyroidism, brain tumors, epilepsy, or encephalitis. Only a doctor can determine the cause, so make sure you give your dog a timely help to achieve health and behavior improvement.

How to Socialize a Scared Dog

Scared dog

Many people also ask me about how to socialize an unsocial dog. Genetics and lack of socialization can both cause skittish and fearful behavior. Dogs that were abused before may also be scared of strangers. However, any dog can get better with time, some efforts from your side, and proper treatment. Remember that you have to be very careful not to make things worse.

The first thing to do is to encourage your dog meeting new people. As I have mentioned before, it’s very important to invite friends to come over. First times, every visitor should completely ignore your dog and pretend it does not even exist. It’s important to avoid eye contact as well.

But at the same time, you should let visitors toss some treats to your dogs so it can associate strangers with something good. Give all the time that your dog needs to approach people. If it starts showing signs of interest, let people slowly and carefully interact with your pet. Never force your dog to do it and don’t push it out of its comfort zone.

Another important thing is to give your dog space where it can escape if it feels anxious about something. Your job is to make all new experiences for your dog stress-free. Give your dog its own corner or room where it can play with toys or lay down on a favorite blanket to calm down.

How to Make Your Dog Get Along With a Cat

Also, I’ve been asked a lot about how to socialize a cat with a dog. For most people, it seems impossible, but if you choose the right approach, it won’t be such a trouble. These animals can share space if you follow the tips below:

  • First of all, take into account the personality of both your dog and cat. An old, aging dog would not get along well with a playful and jumpy cat. If they don’t match, you can keep them separated in your household. If you see that your cat is as skittish or calm as your dog, believe me, they can become a match.
  • Before your dog and cat have a face-to-face meeting, let them sniffle each other’s toys first. This is their way to get acquainted with each other beforehand, and it will make a real introduction more smooth.
  • Teach your dog to control impulses. If you see that your dog can jump any time on your cat, try to keep it on a leash and control your pets when they meet each other. Soon your dog will get used to the cat and will be more obedient. Or you can help release your dog’s energy during a walk, so it stays more calm with cats.
  • Keep all their food and toys separately in different places in your house. Let them have their own space, and you will manage to avoid fighting. Cats especially need their space to feel comfortable and safe.

Why Is Dog Socialization So Important?

If you take care of the socialization aspect of your pet’s life when it’s a puppy, you will get a more relaxed, friendly, well-rounded dog in the future. Socialized dogs feel much more comfortable in different situations, with different unfamiliar people, kids, and other animals. Chances are much lower that your dog will behave aggressively when it encounters something new.

I hope that dog socialization tips that I’ve provided will come in handy and help you and your dog. It’s extremely important to take care of this aspect of your pet’s life. I bet you want a friendly dog that everyone gets along with, whether it’s a human being or other animals that your dog interacts with.

It’s crucial to work on your dog’s socialization because lack of it can cause problematic behavior that will affect the lives of your family and other people around. By implementing these tips, you will be able to teach your dog how to behave with other people and avoid eventual issues. Don’t let your pet stay stressful about its surroundings and environment.

It will be your pleasure to see how well your favorite pet interacts with people and animals. By contributing to your dog’s socialization, you will make your pet much happier, peaceful, and relaxed.


Matthew Farthing

Matthew Farthing

Сontributing author at DoggoLab, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant.

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