Responsible canine and human socialization includes introducing a dog to people of all ages, sizes and ethnicities, wearing different clothing, glasses, hats, facial hair and in a variety of environments. A positive attitude toward new experiences is vital to socializing a dog, no matter what his age. Equally as important is respecting the dog’s feelings if he is reluctant. It is safest to err on the side of caution if the dog exhibits any negative behavior.
Introducing Visitors at Home
Invite a few friends over, preferably people your dog has not previously met. Inform friends ahead of time to arrive in intervals and expect to wait outside several minutes after arrival while you give the dog instructions.
Instruct the dog to sit when the first visitor arrives. It does not matter how long it takes for the dog to sit, but he must sit quietly before your guest enters.
Praise the dog as he remains sitting quietly in place as your guest enters your home. If at any time the dog stands up or approaches your visitor before you ask him to, return him to his seated position.
Give your friend a dog treat and invite her over to your seated dog. Do not allow the dog to jump up on your friend. If he moves from a sit, return him to his seated position before continuing. Have your friend offer her hand for the dog to sniff and the treat as a reward for sitting.
Ask your visitor to make herself comfortable in another room while the dog remains sitting.
Instruct the dog to enter the other room and say hello. At this time your friend may pet the dog as he sniffs her clothing, shoes and skin. Eventually the dog will become comfortable with your friend’s presence and most likely lie down somewhere nearby.
Have your friend leave the house and ring the doorbell in a few minutes to repeat the process. Characteristically, the dog will rush to the door and need instruction to sit, stay and wait for the guest to enter. Because dogs learn through repetition, the dog will settle into a routine after the same friend continues to enter and leave the house in the same manner. After three or four repetitions, have this friend remain seated in the other room.
Wait for the second visitor to arrive, start the process again with two guests in the house, and continue introducing the dog using the same routine.
Socializing in Public
Put your dog on a 6-foot leash before going on walks in public. Introduce him to strangers and gauge his comfort level during walks by asking people you meet to toss him the treats you have on hand. Incorporate basic training, such as sitting and staying, here to prevent him from jumping up on strangers. This activity helps reinforce that people are friendly.
Spend time at children’s parks where the dog can learn the sights and sounds of children at play. Children move, speak and react differently and sometimes pose a challenge during socialization activities. Slowly allow a few children at a time around the dog and monitor his comfort level.
Expose your dog to as many new places as possible, giving him a variety of positive experiences with many different people.