Socialization : to make fit for companionship with others; make sociable.
Sociable : friendly or agreeable in company; companionable.
In general, a socialized dog is one who is not too excitable or aggressive and can usually play well with other dogs. No dog is perfect but one can certainly take steps to making their dog a better member of their community.
Depending on your dog and his reaction to his environment, you will want to use one or all of the following methods to socialize your dog.
- 1. Exposure. Dogs do not generalize well. If you want a dog to be calm around bicycles then you’ll need to expose him to bikes in your neighborhood, during car rides, and along the bike path at the park. Exposure to bicycles does not mean that the dog will naturally be calm around wheelchairs, tricycles or motorcycles. Decide what will be frequent in your dog’s life – children, other dogs, car rides, gunshots – and give him lots of supervised exposure.
- 2. Desensitization. When you expose your dog to different situations you’ll be expecting him to act in a certain way. Most people would like their dog to remain calm and not display any anxious behavior. Decide in advance what you are expecting of the dog and set him up for success. If he gets worked up when approaching another dog then keep him at a distance where he remains fairly calm. Praise and reward. Then start decreasing the distance from the other dog. Do this in small increments so that you have every chance to reward him for good, calm behavior.
- 3. Classical conditioning. Pairing a reward with a situation that makes the dog nervous can change his outlook on events. If the scary man in a hat starts tossing treats toward your dog, eventually your dog may allow that man to approach and give him treats directly from his hand. Feed your dog in his crate and he will associate the crate with his innate need for nourishment.
Of course, basic obedience training is always recommended as it provides mental stimulation for your dog and the opportunity for you and your dog to build a stronger and more enriching bond.
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