News / December 14, 2023

How To Socialise Your Dog

As part of our Reactivity series, we will be looking at the essentials of how to socialise your puppy or adult dog, whether they are nervous, reactive, or even aggressive.

Here we will break down the steps to help your dog become more comfortable and you more confident around other dogs. 

Dogs Socialise

Advice On How To Socialise Your Dog

As we have discussed in other videos in this series, dogs aren’t born reactive but rather susceptible to this behaviour and life then teaches them that reactivity works. Typically, this would be down to the genetics of a dog, making them anxious, nervous, and sensitive. It is critical that we recognise reactivity in dogs, and help them by controlling and shaping their life experiences. This stage of training is generally called ‘socialisation’ and during this, we can help build their confidence and reduce any anxiety they may have. 

The ‘human’ definition of socialisation is to meet or spend time with people and enjoy yourself and this is usually where most problems start when relating this to a dog. Humans usually put this into practice with dogs by taking them to meet and play with other dogs, and whether it is consciously or subconsciously, people usually impose the way they learn, feel, or think emotionally onto dogs. 

The idea that uncontrolled meeting or free play between dogs equates to them learning to like each other has become part of the public consciousness regarding the socialisation of dogs. The reason it is so common is because seeing dogs run, chase, and jump on each other is perceived as ‘play’ by most dog owners. However, this is an incorrect assumption as during free play, dogs are actually learning who is faster and stronger and these environments don’t automatically create healthier relationships between dogs. A good way of thinking about it is, if you want your dog to be calm, comfortable, and under control around traffic, you wouldn’t let them play in the road. 

Dogs Socialise

So how should we socialise our dogs? A good start is to have the mindset to familiarise rather than socialise your dog. Here are some dos and don’ts as well as top tips to help you and your dog:  

Dos, Don’ts and Top Tips

Do take your dog to environments that they struggle with, but make sure you have your dog on a lead when around other dogs and in public settings or groups. Control these experiences, ensuring you keep them brief and regular, and use calm praise or treats to reinforce your dog’s coping with these situations. 

Don’t let your dog free-play or be pestered by other dogs. This may undermine any future efforts at obedience and control, and your dog may even come across another dog that gives them a bad experience, leading your dog to reactivity. 

Top Tip #1 – Try to use older dogs, who are typically less energetic, or dogs who are simply uninterested in other dogs, when getting your dog used to being around other dogs. This will help you engage with and shape your dog’s responses. 

Do keep these sessions short, preferably in passing, and any meetings brief. Don’t overly distract your dog, only do so when they are becoming too focused on the dog(s) around them. If they are being calm and neutral, then leave them to it as they need to learn to live without constant attention or reassurance. 

Do ask people to initially ignore your dog and if they have a dog themselves, ask them to keep them at a respectful distance. If someone wants to physically greet your dog, make sure the interaction is brief and lowkey. It is important that your dog doesn’t become overstimulated by people which can happen if they are given constant attention.  

Top Tip #2 – It is okay to say no if people ask to fuss your dog. If your dog is overstimulated by people or is anxious and fearful, then be assertive and say no, but do explain why. Friendships should not be forced on dogs, especially nervous and sensitive dogs. Pressuring sensitive dogs, even passively, into social interactions will increase anxiety and fear. 

Top Tip #3 – The energy you display to your dog should reflect the energy you want from your dog. So don’t use soothing tones or words to try and calm a dog as dogs don’t understand the complexities of human words, and soothing tones sound anxious to a dog, so you should act and sound confident. 

Do let your dog know if they are doing something wrong in situations such as jumping on other dogs or people. It is ok to tell dogs off as we do with children. Don’t get angry or stressed with your dog, as they pick up on energy, so you need to remain calm and confident. 

Left to their own devices, dogs will respond to the world with their own instincts, emotions, and actions. Dogs have no inbuilt concept of social etiquette or human behaviours and it is our responsibility to teach them what and how we want them to respond to life. Parental leadership is something we feel strongly about when forming relationships with dogs. 

Make sure to check out our Reactivity Series on YouTube for more information and advice about reactive dogs. Watch our Reactivity Series on Platinum K9 YouTube channel

For more information on our residential dog training services please contact us at info@platinumk9.com or call us on 0115 646 0905.