Effective socialization ensures your dog plays well with other dogs and with other people, and it makes your life with your pet more enjoyable and easier when others are around. A lifelong process, socialization also helps your dog obtain the interactions and stimulation she needs to stay happy and healthy. While socialization efforts are most important in the early months of your puppy's life, you can make your dog more sociable no matter how old she is.
Take your dog to the veterinarian for a checkup. Health problems that cause discomfort or pain can interfere with your dog's desire or ability to be sociable. Follow any management plans devised by your vet to improve your dog's condition and mood.
Enroll your puppy in a puppy class at a local shelter, pet spa, training facility or other venue. Follow the trainer’s instructions on ways to encourage your puppy to interact with people and the other puppies in the class. This sets the stage for a lifetime of sociability and better adaptation to new circumstances and potentially stressful situations.
Invite friends and family members over frequently. Have them offer your dog a treat when they first arrive. Let your dog get accustomed to them and approach them of her own free will. Don't force interactions or physical contact.
Host and attend puppy parties. Have a few friends, family members and neighbors over with their own puppies or smaller dogs. The gathering should be in an enclosed but roomy area. Keep each dog's own crate on hand in case separation is necessary. Watch closely for aggression to intervene if necessary. Let the dogs come together on their own. Refrain from creating a situation in which they might fight over food.
Walk your dog every day on her leash. Try to go at the same time each day but alternate between a few different routes. Set a goal of allowing your dog to meet and become familiar with a variety of other people and dogs. You might also invite a neighbor or two to walk their dogs with you.
Head as often as possible to the dog park with your puppy. Allow your dog to socialize with other people and dogs in a fun, neutral environment; your dog won't have the same territorial concerns as she does at home. If your dog is more than 1 year old, try to visit the dog park when there are only a few other dogs there, as socially mature dogs do not typically enjoy playing with large groups of strange dogs, the Animal Humane Society notes. Be prepared to intervene and to leave if your dog becomes afraid or aggressive in a public setting.
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- Consult a dog behaviorist and trainer if you're having difficulty making your dog more sociable. Professionals can guide your dog along the path to sociability more safely and effectively than you can on your own, especially if your dog has anxiety, aggression or behavioral problems.
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