6 Tips for Socializing Dogs

Socializing dogs involves more than just taking your pet to the dog park and unclipping the leash. To help your dog learn to face the world with confidence and a friendly attitude, you will need to expose him to a variety of different stimuli, including people, other animals, loud noises and unpredictable movement.

1. Get Started Early

The earlier you socialize your dog, the better. It is never too late to socialize your dog, but an early start will make the job easier. Older dogs who have experienced isolation or trauma may need more time to develop confidence or trust, but a sensible, patient approach will improve their skills.

2. Take a Class

A group dog training class will expose your puppy dog to other people and dogs in a safe and structured environment. There are classes available for socializing puppies and teaching older dogs basic commands.

Most dogs end up at shelters because they have never been taught basic obedience skills. A dog training class will help you and your dog develop a successful relationship.

3. Seek Out Stimuli

Bring your dog to noisy, busy places. Shopping center parking lots, construction sites and softball games are a good start. With your dog on the leash, walk confidently along the perimeter of these areas. Offer an occasional treat when your dog is calm. If your dog is a bit shy or nervous, keep these outings short and upbeat. Extend your outings and increase the level of interaction as she gains confidence.

Work on some of your basic commands like "sit" and "heel," offering praise and encouragement when your dog focuses on you.

4. Watch for Signs of Fear

Do not force your dog to approach anything that frightens her. Do not crouch to comfort her - it makes you look nervous, too! Stand tall and offer her a treat to distract her.

5. Go Easy on the Leash

When your dog approaches other dogs, try not to restrain him forcefully. When you pull back on the leash, it causes your dog to assume an unintentionally aggressive posture that can be misunderstood the other dogs.

Tip: When socializing older dogs, especially larger, stronger breeds, try using a harness rather than a collar. While proper leash techniques are the best way to control your dog, a harness may reduce pulling.

6. Socializing at Home

Dogs need to be socialized at home, too. Locking your dog in a back bedroom will only worsen behavior problems. To improve your dog's social skills, enlist the aid of a friend. Arm them with a handful of dog biscuits for this exercise.

Keep your dog on a leash and set up some "visits" from your assistant. As they ring the bell or knock on the door, offer your dog a treat to distract him. When your guest enters the house, keep your dog on the leash, praising and rewarding good behavior. Ignore whining and barking. Once your dog is calm, have your guest offer a treat.


Socializing aggressive dogs takes professional help. Do not put you, your dog or others in a dangerous situation. If your dog growls, snaps or displays other aggressive behaviors, speak to a professional. Canine aggression can be managed, but it requires exert advice.