“Socialization” is a popular buzzword among dog people. Most behavioral problems in dogs tend to be linked to their owner’s failure to “properly socialize” them. I’m inclined to believe that this may very well be the case. I imagine this is why so many people are talking about it.
I think about the challenges of socialization a lot, especially since we’re planning to adopt a young adult dog. I’m often afraid that it will be “too late” to socialize a dog that may have had its bad social skills reinforced. I’ve heard many people say this isn’t true, but I still get nervous about it. Is it extra-hard to socialize a dog when you’ve already missed that “critical socialization stage” in its youth? I try not to worry about it too much.
That said, we’re blessed to live in a very dog-friendly town and surrounding area. My town has a pedestrian mall that welcomes dogs. Our city is filled with beautiful parks, including three off-leash dog parks, and is surrounded by the lovely Blue Ridge mountains and its many winding hiking trails. I want to take my dog everywhere, as much as this is possible. I want a dog who is calm, happy, and trustworthy in almost every situation, but I know that this takes a lot of time and patience.
While I’m waiting on our future dog, here’s a cursory list of all of the people and places that I’m planning on introducing him or her to:
- Old men.
- Old women.
- Men of all shapes and sizes.
- Women of all shapes and sizes.
- People wearing hats or masks.
- People in wheelchairs.
- Teenagers, who congregate freely on the pedestrian mall in large packs. They will not be difficult to find.
- Young children (ages 3 to 10). Start off with kids we know and can trust around the dog.
- Babies. Introduce from a safe distance at first.
- Homeless people on the downtown mall.
- Busking musicians on the streets.
- People of different races from Guion and myself.
- People on bicycles.
- People walking their dogs.
- Training class, which we will enroll in.
- Dogs on the downtown mall, which won’t be hard, because there always dozens and dozens of them.
- Dogs in the dog park.
- Cats! Is there any safe way to do this?
- Other small animals like rabbits, mice, guinea pigs. Echo concern on #16.
- Livestock, if at all possible.
- Riding in cars.
- Riding in a boat.
- Eating outdoors at a restaurant; handling the business of sitting patiently while we’re eating and waiting while being tied to a table.
- Outdoor concerts.
- All types of staircases.
- Hiking trails and state parks.
- Picnic areas.
- Lakes, probably Lake Monticello.
- Rivers, specifically the Rivanna.
- PetsMart in town.
- PetCo in town.
- Horse and Dog Lover’s store downtown.
- Veterinarian’s office and exam room.
- Dog groomer’s.
- Urban Outfitters on the downtown mall (which allows dogs inside).
- Backyard cookouts and potlucks.
OK. I can only come up with 36 places/people/things right now. I’m sure there are more.
Do you have any creative suggestions? What are some of the ways that you socialized your dog? Do you have any special advice for a newly adopted adult dog?