Many experts recommend that you start socializing puppies between three and twenty weeks of age when they are most eager to learn, but the truth is that every dog benefits enormously from continuous socialization throughout their entire life. This socialization helps them to feel comfortable in a wide variety of situations and environments, with a wide variety of people, so that they are less likely to misbehave out of fear or anxiety. That said, there are some basic pet socializing tips one should be mindful of, especially as regards the specific situations or environments they need to avoid.
Places to Avoid When Socializing Your Dog
An important part of knowing how to properly socialize your dog is knowing not only where to take them but also where not to take them. It is true that our dogs love spending time with us just as much as we love spending time with them, but the truth is that certain situations and environments can be incredibly unpleasant and uncomfortable for them to experience. Even if your dog seems to be generally happy and confident in most situations, it is better to avoid socializing them in the following places:
- Parades. While we may love the excitement, chaos, and noise of parades, they can be an absolutely overwhelming sensory experience for dogs. A dog may not know how to respond to everything around them, including the hot pavement under their feet and blazing sun overhead, and unfortunately, any signs of distress they may exhibit can go largely unnoticed. This means that rather than being a pleasant socialization experience for your dog, parades can be a traumatic experience that they simply don’t know how to respond to or recover from.
- Craft fairs. They may not have the same level of excitement, chaos, and noise as can be found at parades, but craft fairs can also cause your dog to experience sensory overload. Additionally, crowds of people, warmer temperatures and a lack of proper bathroom break opportunities can be stressful to deal with. There is plenty of entertainment and stimulation for you to enjoy at a craft fair, but the only thing your dog will enjoy is being in your company. Unfortunately, this may not be enough to counter the uncomfortable, boring or stressful environment.
- House parties. Unless the party is specifically designed for dogs and will, therefore, have all the necessary accommodations to ensure your dog’s every need is met, it is best not to bring your dog to house parties. Indoor parties will require you watch your dog for signals that they need to go to the bathroom, while outdoor parties will require you watch your dog to make sure they don’t leave the yard through open gates or other exits. If the party includes children, you will need to watch and make sure that their interactions with your dog are appropriate. It’s also important to recognize that some dogs simply don’t feel entirely comfortable in new environments, and the length of the party can, therefore, become an issue.
- Concerts. Dogs not only have more powerful hearing than humans, they can hear an entirely different range of musical sounds than we can, which means that the musical concerts we find to be entertaining and enjoyable can be downright unpleasant for our dogs to experience. In addition to the loud music, there are the crowds of people and the potentially warmer temperatures to consider. Your dog will undoubtedly prefer spending some quiet time at home rather than tagging along with you to a loud, crowded, and possibly hot concert.
- Sporting events for children. Even if your dog seems to love children, excitement, and fresh air, it is not a good idea to try and socialize them at sporting events for children. Not only can they become frustrated when they are not permitted to run out to and interact with the children that are participating in the event, they may become bored, tired, and hot when they have to sit around for hours at a time.
The most effective dog socialization occurs when you and your dog feel in control of the situation. This means you can take your dog with you when you go shopping or for a nice walk in a park where you are likely to encounter other people or dogs now and then. Some dogs may become stressed in difficult situations or environments, and yet their stress signals are so subtle that they aren’t recognized. As an example, not panting when it’s appropriate (like when it’s hot or they are exercising) or panting when it’s not appropriate (like when it’s cool and they are resting) can be signs of stress. Socialization activities are obviously not as effective or beneficial to your dog if they feel stressed, which means that before taking them with you to certain places and events you should first consider how it will affect your dog–not how you will enjoy having them by your side.