Improving your dog’s socialisation skills isn’t just for puppies, sometimes our senior dog’s require a refresher in basic social skills. Today I’ll be taking you through some tips to socialise your senior dog.
I’ve had first-hand experience in this with Harley as she grew up on a property being an only dog. There weren’t any dog parks around and the beach was too far to drive in the car. Harley lacks social skills and doesn’t get along with other dogs and humans. This is slowly changing, but it takes time.
To this day I am still training Harley to socialise and be less aggressive towards other dogs and humans when they get too close.
Whatever the reason for your senior dog lacking socialising skills whether it be an adoption of a senior dog, or you may have a similar circumstance as Harley, with training and perseverance your dog can improve their social skills.
Signs your Dog is Lacking Socialisation
You can socialise your senior dog with practice and patience. The practice of socialising your dog is to climatise to new people, dogs, surroundings and sounds in order to be a better-behaved dog that isn’t fearful or aggressive. Without socialisation, your senior dog may develop unwanted traits such as barking, biting, aggressive, anxious or fearful.
- Fearful or aggressive when outside or near other dogs and humans.
- Raise his hackles when a dog or human approaches.
- Nervous when walking, tail tucked between legs.
- Shy or hide when dogs or humans are around.
- Loss of appetite
- Will not share or play with toys
If you are wanting to socialise your senior dog you will need to be patient. Attempting to socialise your senior dog takes a different approach to that of training a puppy. It’s easy to train a puppy as they are more excited and generally more keen and happy to see, sniff and play with other dogs and humans.
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Senior dogs, on the other hand, are already set in their ways and attempting to change them will be a little different. Forcing your dog into a situation where they are unfamiliar and uncomfortable (ie: Throwing them into the deep end) can have detrimental effects and can severely derail your dog’s progress or willingness to explore new things.
Tips to Socialise your Senior Dog
Start slow. Very slow. Snail pace slow. The key is to go at their pace and not force your dog. Start off with a few minutes at a time is a great start. This will start to boost your dog’s confidence and make them realise that it isn’t so scary. Below are a few tips to start and social your senior dog.
- Take a walk past the dog park (don’t go in). Walk normally and don’t draw attention to the dog park or other dogs. Just walk on by and don’t stop.
- Find a park bench or beach where you can sit and watch other dogs.
- Each time a dog comes near you, give a treat to your dog. This will allow your dog to realise that it’s ok, positive reinforcement.
- If you find that your dog is being aggressive or submissive, move further away from other dogs and slowly work to moving closer. This will take time, each senior dog is different so this may take a few days or weeks. Just remember not to force your dog.
- Once you have worked up to being a little bit more social, it’s time for the next step.
Dog obedience classes are a great way to socialise once your dog is comfortable enough to be around other dogs. They can learn some new skills and make friends with dogs that are on the same timetable as you. This will allow your dog to get familiar and form friendships.
Introduce People Slowly
Sometimes meeting new people can be overwhelming, so when it comes to meeting new people start off with introducing one person at a time. Have some treats in hand so when your dog approaches them.
Give your dog a treat, using a positive and happy voice. Keep your dog on a leash at first, let your dog approach first. Have your friend kneel on the ground and let your dog walk over at their own pace.
Have Dog Friends Over
Do you have any friends that have older or calm dogs? Host a small gathering of one or two dogs over for a playdate. Having a seniors party in their own familiar surroundings will provide less stress on your senior dog. Buy some new and exciting treats from Budget Pet Products and remember positive reinforcement.
An easy way to socialise your senior dog is to take them with you when you run errands. Have one or errands and complete them off-peak.
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For example, if you’re after a new house plant, go to your local plant store and your dog with you. It’s a great way for your dog to see and sniff new surroundings and meeting a new person in off-peak will be easier as there will be fewer people around.
Running a few errands means you won’t be out for too long and being in a few different places for a few minutes and providing some treats too will let your dog know that he needn’t be frightened.
When it comes time to socialise your dog take it slow and steady. You know your dog better than anyone and you will also sense what is working and what isn’t.
If you have any more tips please comment below and help fellow senior pet owners socialise their dog.
Gina & Harley