Every dog parent has to socialize their dog. Socialization is best done when your dog is a young puppy, particularly in the socialization phase in the first three months or so of their life.
But the good news is, it’s never too late to socialize your pup – it might just be a slower, more difficult process, but still one that’s filled with the best dog treats, of course!
No matter the age of your dog, however, there are some slightly surprising ways to help socialize them. And certified dog trainer Melissa Goodman of Mission Pawsitive, who trained at the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior, has discussed one in a recent Instagram post.
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“Socialization is never truly done,” Goodman begins, “And having a well-socialized dog requires maintenance,” pointing out that even a dog who was socialized appropriately as a puppy can still benefit from socialization as an adult. With poor socialization being one of the top three causes of reactivity in dogs, it makes sense to keep up the socialization throughout your pup’s life.
She took her dog, Aspen, to a dog-friendly ostrich and emu farm, and she explained that the pup wasn’t sure what to make of the large birds at first. But, as she explains, “You never know when your dog may experience something new and how they might feel about it, so stopping at a dog-friendly ostrich and emu ranch was a great socialization opportunity.”
After Aspen had inspected the birds from a distance, and received a few treats, she was comfortable around them. Goodman recommends giving your pup exposure to other species of animal when they’re young as one form of socialization, but it’s one that often gets left out.
And remember that interaction isn’t necessarily needed for good socialization to happen! Just being in the vicinity of other animals can help.
As Goodman wrote in her caption, “The more variety your dog experiences will make it much easier for them to adapt in new situations and be more resilient to handling stress. Aspen was a little hesitant around the animals at first, but because she has had many positive experiences around horses, mules, donkeys, chickens, deer, and peacocks, she was able to acclimate after a few minutes.”
However, it’s important not to force things. Goodman explains that, if Aspen wasn’t comfortable, she wouldn’t have forced her, and would have either stayed further away from the ostriches and emus or simply taken her to the car.
And, if your dog doesn’t have much experience of being around large animals, there’s no harm in starting a little smaller! So, whether you’re bringing home a puppy for the first time or you have adult dogs, why not give this tip a go?
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Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.