Socialization

Pet Care Tips Archives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With People

It is important to get your dog used to meeting new people from the youngest age possible. Some breeds are naturally sociable; others are reticent. You'll want your dog to be friendly without being too jumpy or yappy. Because dogs can notice differences in people, especially their scents, you need to help them develop an openness to new and unfamiliar individuals. One bad experience, like being frightened by a man with a beard, can lead to a lifetime of resistance to other men with beards.

When you first bring your puppy home, begin to introduce it to lots of people. Be sure to go slow and allow your dog time to get familiar with each person. Make variety part of the mix — people of all sizes, shapes, colors, with and without glasses, big hair and no hair, adults and kids, deep voices and soft voices, etc. The more variety your dog is exposed to, the more accepting it will be of new people. This is also the time to introduce your dog to a wide array of human sounds and movements. Let your dog see and approach people riding bikes, on rollerblades, jogging or doing other activities. Give your pet a chance to experience some sudden gestures to help reduce any stress in the future. Introduce your pet to people indoors and outdoors, in your home, in other people's homes and in other places.

To prevent your dog from jumping up on people or becoming too overly excited, put your hand on your dog to keep it standing on all four legs. Don't allow your dog form bad habits like getting up on its hind legs or jumping around new people. Let the dog get used to other people gently petting it. If your dog does behave badly around a new person, increase the distance to that person and make the dog look into your eyes for your attention. This distracts the dog from the source of its discomfort. Be sure to use verbal reward to reinforce good behavior while your dog learns to accept the presence and touch of other people.

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With Children and Infants

Preschool-aged children and puppies can serve an important role in each other's development and socialization. They can also be hurtful and create lifetime phobias if left alone together. Always be sure that you or another adult supervise every interaction between young children and your dog. Ideally, there will be two adults when the two are introduced — one to manage the dog and one to manage the child. Let the dog and child move close to each other slowly while talking gently to each. Let the dog sniff the child and get familiar. Show the child how to touch the dog gently and pet it. Make sure you keep the dog's feet firmly on the ground and don't allow it to jump, nip or bark. At the same time, teach your child not to hit the dog or pull on its tail or coat. As they get to know each other better, they will likely become playmates and exhibit lots of lovable companionship.

Dogs can be wonderful comforts and protectors to infants, too, but will benefit from some preparation and advance training before you bring a baby home. First, set up some barriers so that both your infant and your dog have spaces where they can be away from each other. Before the baby is born, buy a baby doll and start demonstrating the practices you'll use when the real baby comes. Carry the baby doll with you around the house and on walks. Show the dog how to gently nuzzle the doll. Build the baby's presence and needs into your daily dog care routine. And don't forget to reward your dog for adapting to a new family member.

Shortly before you're ready to bring the real baby home, have someone take an article of clothing or fabric with the baby's scent to the dog to acclimate it to the scent. This will help ensure that your dog won't be distracted by the baby's smell when you get home and will continue to focus on your orders. Having practiced with the baby doll, your dog should adjust to the real baby smoothly. Be sure to give attention to your dog every day. After all, your dog remains a valued and lovable member of your family.

When your baby reaches the age for crawling, poking or pulling, make sure you establish some limits to protect your dog. Dogs can't defend themselves against painful behaviors, even if they are unintended. You have to keep your child from hurting your dog or traumatizing it through painful behaviors. Don't assume the dog can just "take it" or will get used to it. Show your child how to deal gently with the dog, but be prepared to pull the baby away if it hurts your pet.

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With Multiple Dogs

If you are introducing a second dog to your household, you have to be careful not to show any preferences that might make your current pet jealous or anxious at the same time you create a bond with your new dog. The first impression between the two is very important, so you will need to prepare. Begin by removing anything your current dog might be unwilling to share — from food and water bowls to chew toys, bones and bedding. Get all new items for both dogs to prevent any fights over possessions. Also clean up your house to eliminate any clutter. Both dogs will need neutral, designated space to be alone in and spaces to be around each other. Having alternative space also gives the dogs distractions so they won't just focus on each other.

To introduce your dogs, have them meet outside of your home or yard. Get another adult to help you. Make sure both dogs are on leashes and then bring them toward each other. You should crouch down on the ground between them and speak calmly to them both. Try to keep the leashes slack unless one of them shows signs of aggression. Typically, the dogs will begin by sniffing each other, then the puppy will become submissive and lay down or roll over. Your current dog should then check out the dog more closely as if to play, or ignore it altogether. Either response is appropriate. What you don't want is for either one to become agitated. Sometimes the dogs begin circling each other or even growl a little, but this may be posturing. Give it a minute. Often they acclimate without any further aggression. Just give them time to become familiar and form their own relationship.

If one or both dogs demonstrates signs of aggression, separate the dogs right away. Try not to pull on the leash. One good method is for both adults to wave treats in front of both dogs and lure their attention away from each other. Continue your efforts to introduce the dogs in brief sessions until you can walk with both of them together. Then simply walk home and bring them both in the house as if this has been routine for a long time. If you have a yard, do the same thing to get the dogs adjusted to each other outdoors. Keep to the same daily dog care routine you had with one dog as much as possible to make the transition easier for your current dog. Also be sure to spend time individually with each dog to take care of their unique emotional needs: bonding with the new dog and reinforcing your love for the current dog.

For the first month, you'll need to keep an eye on your two dogs when they are together, particularly if they are outdoors alone. Sometimes even when the two dogs appear to be getting along well, something triggers an aggressive action in one or the other. You'll need to run interference immediately and use the occasion to foster the shared behaviors you want both dogs to adopt. Also make sure both dogs use the equipment you designated for each them — their own bowls, toys, beds and crates to avoid future problems.

Please note: Do not hold a puppy up to your current dog. This is frightening to the pup and will not make a good first impression. Do not put your two dogs together in a small space, like a car, until you are sure they have gotten used to each other. Most importantly, do not ever let your dogs "fight it out." If they become aggressive with each other separate them and train them to behave properly around each other.

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With Cats and Other Pets

Exposing a puppy to other animals makes for an easier transition into a multiple-pet family than introducing an adult dog. That being said, it is possible to train dogs to live with other pets. You will need to determine your dog's specific capacity to do this, regardless of its breed and general temperament. That's because in nature, some of these animals may be predator and prey.

Before introducing your dog to another pet, observe the way it deals with animals in the world around you. Does your dog constantly chase other animals outdoors? Is it excitable when it sees a squirrel or bird? Will it stare and listen obsessively to these animals? Does your dog show possessiveness about its toys or food? If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," this may indicate your dog is not suited to living with another pet.

For dogs that do have the temperament, you'll need to introduce the two pets to each other gradually. As with other dogs, you'll need to designate neutral areas in the house where each can be away from the other as well as spaces where they can co-exist. Have another adult help you do the introduction so that you have one adult each to manage the pets. Bring them into one space, but keep them at a distance. Let them become increasingly aware of each other. Let your dog sniff out the other animal. Keep practicing the introduction in short amounts of time, no more than ten or fifteen minutes each. Eventually, bring the two animals in closer proximity to each other and see how they react. Talk to both of them. Make sure you are between the two of them so that they both can keep their focus on you. When they remain calm and relaxed around each other, you can let them do some initial touching with adult control. If they show aggression, shift their focus to you and separate them. After a while, begin the process of introducing them from across the room again.

Over time, you will be able to let them go. They may ignore each other for long periods of time, but keep an eye out for a month or more in case something unexpected triggers an act of aggression between them. For your pets' safety, be sure to put at least one or both pets in their cages or crates if you are leaving them home alone.

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