A Social Butterfly Isn’t Born Overnight: Socializing Your Dog
Sometimes we set very high expectations for our furry loved ones; such as superb communications skills, extremely friendly disposition, and the ability to keep completely calm when faced with unfamiliar situations. A bit much? Yes, but not impossible.
We adopted Chester when he was approximately 10 months old and from the very first day we made sure that we exposed him to everything that was an important part of our lives. Hanging out with friends, visiting family, going to the park, going on camping trips, eating out, road trips, hiking and swimming etc. We never thought twice to exclude him from an activity because he might not be able to handle the situation.
Time and time again he would prove us right, the more he saw, the more he learned, and the better he handled new smells, people, places, and activities. He is the protagonist of “Mishaps of an Adventurous Dog,” and he got to experience all of those things because we trusted him and nurtured his curiosity. This is the key to having a confident and well-rounded dog. Our dogs see the world through our eyes, and we sometimes pass along our fears to them without even knowing it. We might act uncomfortable when they are meeting a dog for the first time, or act cautious when they are stepping into a new home, or feel a bit concerned when meeting a stranger on the street. All of these fears are interpreted by our dogs as reasons to be on the defensive when they are confronted with a new situation. Instead, we need to practice a calm and confident attitude towards all situations we are choosing to expose our dogs to.
Last year was a big year for Chester because he got to be the ring bearer at our wedding in Cambria, CA. At the age of 7, without any rehearsals, nor any particular training, on the day of our wedding we asked him to fetch his toy from the crowd, which had our rings tied to it and he grabbed it, squeaked it, played for a few second and then brought it over. He totally stole the show!
A social butterfly is not created overnight. It all begins the very first day you bring your dog home. Remember to expose them to the world. Take them on walks not just for bathroom purposes, but to also meet others and explore their neighborhoods. Take them to places where they will have a chance to meet new people. Have them visit new places, which will spark curiosity. Go on car rides to distant places for camping trips or overnight stays at a pet-friendly hotel, meet neighbors’ dogs and go on walks together. Have your dog be an intricate part of your everyday life. If you’ve had Fido for a while, it’s never too late to start. It’s a work in progress throughout their entire lives, and yes an old dog can learn new tricks. It will simply take them a bit longer and you will need more patience, but they can be a social butterfly!
Have a dog socialization tip or story to share? Leave a comment below.