36 ways to socialize my future dog

A classy poodle being socialized in Austin, TX. Source: Flickr user pooneh

“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:

  1. Old men.
  2. Old women.
  3. Men of all shapes and sizes.
  4. Women of all shapes and sizes.
  5. People wearing hats or masks.
  6. People in wheelchairs.
  7. Teenagers, who congregate freely on the pedestrian mall in large packs. They will not be difficult to find.
  8. Young children (ages 3 to 10). Start off with kids we know and can trust around the dog.
  9. Babies. Introduce from a safe distance at first.
  10. Homeless people on the downtown mall.
  11. Busking musicians on the streets.
  12. People of different races from Guion and myself.
  13. People on bicycles.
  14. People walking their dogs.
  15. Training class, which we will enroll in.
  16. Dogs on the downtown mall, which won’t be hard, because there always dozens and dozens of them.
  17. Dogs in the dog park.
  18. Cats! Is there any safe way to do this?
  19. Other small animals like rabbits, mice, guinea pigs. Echo concern on #16.
  20. Livestock, if at all possible.
  21. Riding in cars.
  22. Riding in a boat.
  23. Eating outdoors at a restaurant; handling the business of sitting patiently while we’re eating and waiting while being tied to a table.
  24. Outdoor concerts.
  25. All types of staircases.
  26. Hiking trails and state parks.
  27. Picnic areas.
  28. Lakes, probably Lake Monticello.
  29. Rivers, specifically the Rivanna.
  30. PetsMart in town.
  31. PetCo in town.
  32. Horse and Dog Lover’s store downtown.
  33. Veterinarian’s office and exam room.
  34. Dog groomer’s.
  35. Urban Outfitters on the downtown mall (which allows dogs inside).
  36. 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?

8 thoughts on “36 ways to socialize my future dog

  1. Based on the things that drove my Aussie crazy, I would suggest exposing a new dog to:
    Any person moving faster than him- be it on bike or jogging
    Bouncing basketballs
    Anything on the other side of the window (can be seen and heard but not smelled)

    As for introducing a dog to a cat, the best way to do it is to have them in small area where the cat has a quick escape route that the dog can’t follow.
    Also, if the dog is living with a cat, its best to teach the dog that the cat is alpha. Let the dog see you treating the cat as special- feed the cat first, etc. If you train the dog that the cat is higher on the social order, they tend to do fine.
    But everyone I’ve known who has added a dog to a household that already has a cat makes sure that there is a dedicated cat space that the cat can always easily get to and the dog can’t follow. Its just the safest way to handle the first few months.

    read about my dogs at http://lifebypets.blogspot.com

  2. I suggest being prepared for setbacks as well. I socialised my puppy quite intensively, but still ended up with a dog fearful in certain circumstances due to bad experiences later in adolescence. For example, he was quite friendly with cats, but about 9 months ago a cat launched itself out from under a car as we were passing and scratched him on the nose. He has naturally been suspicious of cats ever since. And a similar thing happened to him with skateboards when a teenager roared by very close to him one day. We are still working on the cat issue, but he no longer rushes after skateboards in the park, though he is still skitish.

  3. My additions of scary things:
    Air compressors
    The blender
    The mixer
    The umbrella
    The vacuum cleaner
    The drill
    The hammer
    Amish buggies or horse drawn buggies
    Flashing lights
    Air horns
    Car horns
    People using walkers
    People using canes

  4. More scary things:

    The vacuum cleaner
    The mixer
    The sweeping broom
    The blender
    People with walkers
    People with canes
    People that limp
    The umbrella
    The Amish Buggy or a horse drawn carriage
    The air compressor
    The hammer
    The drill
    The saw
    People with sunglasses
    The jackhammer
    The air horn
    Flashing lights

  5. I live in Chicago, a neighborhood not far from the Loop. I got my Border Collie bitch at 10 weeks and made a goal to expose her to 100 different people, places, things, sounds, textures, critters a week. Anyone who thought she was cute AND ASKED could pick her up, cuddle her, feel her feet, flip her onto her back. We went into many stores, such as pet shops, bike shops, auto parts stores; we’d sit in different Vets’ waiting rooms, groomers’ waiting rooms. I’d take her for rides in the car in a crate and not in a crate; we’d run around in several sized parks. She was crate trained and house broken in 4 days. I took her to the Anti Cruelty for Puppy Classes (The Chicago Anti-Cruelty Association has great trainers and behaviorists on staff; all have many years teaching experience and the prices are very reasonable.)
    By the time she was 16 weeks old, she was bullet proof. Still is. She’s gotten additional training herding sheep and goats. She travels very well, sleeping in her crate for up to 6 hrs at a crack.

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