Happy dogs hugging

Have you ever seen dogs meet for the first time? A positive first meeting is no accident. Did you know there are ways owners can set their dogs up for successful social interaction? Keep reading to learn how to introduce dogs to new pets and people.

Tips for Socializing Your Dog

Dogs have unique personalities. Some are more social than others. But dogs can also be trained to get along with other dogs, animals and people. Socializing a dog works best when you:

  • Start young
  • Create a safe environment
  • Make socializing a priority
  • Watch for signs of stress or distress
  • Develop opportunities to try introductions

No matter what your dog's age, it's never too late to learn how to socialize your dog. Here are some ideas to try every day:

  • Play games with your dog  like "fetch" to teach your dog body language and sharing.
  • Interact with other dogs to help your dog interact appropriately.
  • Observe your dog's emotional state. (Behaviors like cowering and tail-tucking indicate he's overwhelmed.)
  • Reward good behavior. Progress deserves praise your dog will recognize.

Puppy Socialization

Just like children, puppies go through key developmental periods. Their brains are busy learning about the big world around them. So, starting young will help your puppy develop social skills for life. Purina Senior Scientist, Human/Animal Bond, Ragen McGowan explains, “the sensitive period for puppies begins at about 3 weeks of age and lasts until about 12 weeks of age.”

During this period, it is important to expose your puppy to a lot of new experiences. Some ideas on how to socialize a puppy include opportunities to:

  • Meet new people
  • Meet other dogs (and cats, too)
  • Visit new places
  • Get comfortable around children

To a puppy, children may just seem like small humans that make funny noises and unpredictable movements. That's why it's especially important to introduce your puppy to children during this period. That way your puppy will the learn the differences between children and adults.

How Do New Experiences Help Dog Socialization?

Think about dog and puppy socialization this way – it’s practice. The more you and your dog practice, the more socialized he becomes. Each and every new experience will build on what your dog has already learned. Try to praise good behavior at every opportunity. Praise will not only reinforce good behavior, it sets up your dog up for lifelong success.

How to Introduce Dogs in Your Family

Already have a pet dog? Here are some ways you can welcome a new dog into the family:

  • Prevent tension. Meeting at a place that isn’t your house or yard can limit territorial behavior.
  • Be calm. Your dog can sense if you’re stressed – from your voice, body language and even if you’re holding his leash taut.
  • Give them space. Dogs will be more at ease if they can each retreat to a comfort zone.
  • Take it slow. You have a lot of time to help your dogs build a lasting relationship.

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