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Dog Socialization: Is It Ever Too Late?

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
December 5, 2021
5 min read
Dog Socialization: Is It Ever Too Late?
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

Life is full of late bloomers. Like the guy who didn’t get his first girlfriend until well into his late thirties. Or the woman whose business finally took off after decades of hard work.

Some things just take time.

But sometimes, we are set back for reasons totally out of our control. Maybe you just weren’t raised with the tools necessary to succeed socially in the world.

Did you know the same can be true for your dog?

But thankfully, you can actively play a role in setting your pup on the right course!

Generally, it is harder to get an older dog socialized properly, but very possible. However, it is essential to remember that getting an older dog socialized takes more time than getting a puppy socialized because of learned behavior and habits.

In this article, I will discuss what happens if you don’t socialize your dog.

Then, I will explore whether it can ever be too late to socialize your dog and provide some tips to help you socialize them.

Finally, I will also uncover if getting a second dog can help with your dog’s socialization.

Ready to ramp up your pup’s social skills?

Let’s do this!

Table of Contents
01
What Happens If You Don’t Socialize Your Dog?
02
Is It Ever Too Late to Socialize a Dog?
03
How Can You Socialize Your Dog Late?
04
Does Getting a Second Dog Help with Socialization?
05
It Just Takes Time and Compassion

What Happens If You Don’t Socialize Your Dog?

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There are definitely consequences if you don’t socialize your dog. And these consequences will likely make life uncomfortable for both you and your dog.

If your dog isn’t properly socialized, they are likely to experience fear, aggression, and anxiety in new places. They will also probably be uncomfortable around other dogs and humans they don’t know.

Your dog’s distress may be expressed in the following ways:

  • Intense horror around events like going to the vet or being groomed
  • Excessive barking, yelping, or pacing when in unfamiliar territory or situations
  • Visible anxiety around new people or other dogs
  • Shaking or relieving themselves at inappropriate times due to any change in routine or surroundings

It probably doesn’t feel good for your dog to experience these things. And it’s likely unsettling for you to see them act in these ways.

Is It Ever Too Late to Socialize a Dog?

It’s never too late to socialize a dog. It’s harder but definitely possible.

Like humans, core parts of a dog’s personality are established very early on. For dogs, the crucial socialization process begins as early as 3-7 weeks. Therefore, it is recommended that puppies stay with their litters until they are about 7-8 weeks old.

It is crucial for them to gently be exposed to different people, situations, and environments during this early period.

Your pup’s delicate social development period continues into about 16 weeks of age. Ideally, your dog is socializing with other appropriate puppy playmates throughout this time.

As your pup makes new doggy friends, it is essential to ensure they have positive experiences while avoiding negative ones.

It’s good to keep an eye out to ensure your dog isn’t bullying any other dogs or being bullied themselves.

How these early interactions unfold have a significant impact on how your pup’s personality will be formed.

But what if this process didn’t quite happen for your pup?

Have no fear! With a bit of time, patience, and care, it is totally possible to socialize your dog later in life.

How Can You Socialize Your Dog Late?

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In a perfect world, your dog would have been socialized early and be totally secure in all ways. But since this may not have been the case, you may be finding yourself needing to socialize a fully grown dog.

This is a challenging task but definitely not an impossible one!

Here are a few quick tips to make this process a breeze:

Keep a Calm and Positive Attitude

Your dog can pick up on your feelings. For example, if you’re feeling impatient, frustrated, or nervous as you try to socialize them, this will likely amplify their anxiety.

Try to make sure that before you begin working with your dog that you are in a relaxed mood yourself. Making sure you’re well-fed, rested, and not pressed for time can go a long way in enabling you to create a peaceful environment for your pup to learn in.

Ignore Their Missteps

If and when your pup backslides in their socialization process, don’t fret! If you freak out and start scolding your dog when they mess up or don’t learn as quickly as you would like, this will likely hurt their process.

If your dog acts out or falls back into old behavior, just ignore it. This way, your dog won’t be fueled by attention, positive or negative, to continue their actions.

Reinforce Their Good Behavior

Now to the fun part! When your pup does well during the socialization process, reward them heavily!

You want them to associate each part with a very positive thing.

For example, if they can sit calmly in a stranger’s presence when before they would have cowered or barked uncontrollably, give them a treat!

Consider Using a Muzzle

If you have a larger or extremely skittish dog, they may become aggressive during the process of being socialized. They are not doing this intentionally to be hostile but are likely just very afraid. Due to their size, energy, and anxiety, they may accidentally nip, lunge or even bite.

Using a muzzle decreases the chances that their nervous behaviors will cause any bad side effects.

Introduce Them to New People Slowly

Resist the urge to immediately thrust your pup into the company of a big group of your closest friends.

You love your friends and know that they are great people, but this may still overwhelm your dog. So instead, pick a friend, one at a time, and calmly introduce them to your pup in a non-threatening environment.

It may help to explain to your friends that you are trying to teach your dog to socialize better. You may want to emphasize that their peaceful demeanor when they meet your pup will help in this process.

Take Them on Walks

Going for simple walks with your dog is a lowkey way to get them out and about.

Try slowly allowing them to sniff around and take in new surroundings at their own speed and pace while remaining by their side as they explore.

Take Them to the Dog Park

If you can sense that your dog is beginning to feel more comfortable exploring new places, it may be time to take them to the dog park!

The dog park is a playground full of sights, smells, sounds, and creatures. It is best to wait to take them until they come out of their shell a bit, or it may be overwhelming to them.

You can always introduce your pup slowly to the dog park and gradually increase your time there.

Does Getting a Second Dog Help with Socialization?

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Gifting your pup a furry new sibling can definitely help them become more comfortable with other dogs.

However, this will only solve part of the issue. Your dog may feel comfortable with your other pets at home. However, you will still want to be intentional about socializing them outside the home.

It Just Takes Time and Compassion

Maybe you can relate to the feeling of being a little behind in life. It can be a profoundly somber moment when you realize you missed out on some important things early in life.

Your pup could be in a similar position. If they seem anxious, edgy, or hostile, they may not have been given the proper socialization they needed at a young age.

This is not their fault.

In their earliest years, whoever raised your dog was likely doing the best they could. And if you are the person who didn’t socialize your dog, it’s okay!

You can start today.

It is completely possible to help your pup become the well-adjusted, best version of themselves with time, patience, and compassion!


Tags
Socialization
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