Life with an unsociable dog can be frustrating. A dog that hides, barks, growls or challenges people and pets can be embarrassing and even dangerous. If your best friend lacks social skills, there are steps you can take to help him behave in the company of people and other animals.
Evaluating Socialization Needs
Determine the best steps to take to make your dog more sociable takes careful consideration to your pet's particular needs. If you are starting out with a young puppy, you have a pet that has not been confused by previous owners or abusive situations. In addition, you will be able to introduce your pup to people, other dogs and small animals while he is still young, and encourage good behavior as he learns right from wrong. Socializing an older dog can be more challenging, especially if you do not know what his past was like. An adopted or rescued dog may have been neglected or abused, resulting in shy or unsociable tendencies. However, this does not mean that you can't socialize an older dog with a questionable background. Starting slowly and being consistent with confidence-building activities will help you transform almost any shy, unsociable canine.
Maybe your dog gets hyper when he sees other dogs, or hides in another room when you have company over to visit. Regardless of what type of unsocial behavior he displays, taking small first steps towards socialization will help him adapt slowly and not overwhelm him. Whether you have a puppy or an adult canine, put your dog in situations where he will be exposed to people and other animals. Walks in parks, visits to relatives' houses and even trips to your veterinarian will help your furry friend realize that people and animals are part of his world. Having friends and family to your home to visit will encourage your pet to become accustomed to other people. Exposing him to a variety of environments will also help him become more confident in the world around him. Additionally, enrolling your pet in obedience classes is a great way for him to learn how to control himself in situations where there are many other people and animals.
Encouraging Social Behavior
Most dogs want to please their owners, so your encouragement will aid your pet in accepting social situations. As you socialize your best canine friend, positive reinforcements will encourage him to continue his good behavior and make him confident that he has pleased you. In social situations in which your dog may feel frightened or intimidated, offering verbal praise will help to calm his nerves. Touching or stroking his coat is an easy was to show him that he is safe when in the company of others. After walks, offering your pooch a treat will make him look forward to this activity that will build his social skills. Play time with your dog's favorite toys is also a great way to spend time with your dog and build his confidence.
Adapting Your Behavior
Did you know that your reaction to your dog's behavior will play a big role in the development of his social skills? An owner who is firm yet calm and gentle will get the best results when encouraging social skills in a canine. Yelling at your dog when he acts out will simply make your pooch think you are barking along with him. Jerking or pulling on his leash during walks when you encounter other people or animals will show your dog that you are stressed and nervous too, and encourage his anti-social tendencies. Additionally, it is never OK to strike your dog, and such reactions will only instill more fear issues that will play out when he is around people and other animals.
Whether you are socializing a puppy or adult dog, continuing to practice activities that encourage socialization will reinforce positive behavior throughout your pet's life. Even if you easily make progress in decreasing unsocial behavior such as retreating, barking or growling, making social and confidence-building activities part of your dog's everyday life will help to keep him on his best behavior around people and animals. Consistency is the key to helping your dog become as social as possible, and to sharing a life together that does not pose constant struggles when other people and animals are around.
Jennifer Lynn has been writing as a correspondent and reporter since 1991. She has written for numerous newspapers and currently writes as a correspondent for Gannett. Lynn has a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on English from Ohio University, where she also studied journalism at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.