There’s nothing like heading off to the dog park to let your pooch pal around with some new canine buddies. But not all dogs are a fan of making friends with their own kind. Some dogs may be reactive or hide when faced with a new potential canine friend, avoiding other dogs at all costs. This kind of antisocial behavior is especially problematic when adding a new pup to your household.
If your dog seems to hate other dogs, don’t lose hope on your four-legged friend bonding with another pup. Read on to see how to train your pooch to make new furry friends and to be more comfortable around other canines.
When to Socialize Your Dog to Other Dogs
Without proper socialization as a puppy, your dog won’t know how to interact with other dogs, leading to fearful, anxious, or aggressive behavior around them later in life. According to Chandra Vail, dog trainer and AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator in Las Vegas, Nevada, puppies should ideally be socialized from birth by their breeder.
During their first couple of months, dogs learn how to interact with other canines by playing with their siblings and learning from their mom. “Once owners obtain a puppy, they should continue to socialize them around other dogs starting at 8 to 10 weeks of age,” she says. But, she cautions that up-close and personal socialization with other dogs shouldn’t take place until the pup is fully vaccinated.
How to Socialize an Older Dog to Other Dogs
For those dealing with older dogs who didn’t have proper socialization as a puppy, the process could take a bit longer. “Socialization for an older dog should go slow and steady, based on the severity of their fear of other dogs.” One of the ways to do this is to participate in basic dog obedience classes. “Basic obedience classes build up their confidence level and having them around other dogs in a class while focused on learning helps acclimate them to other canines in a positive environment.”
Why Reward-Based Training Yields Positive Results
No matter what your dog’s age or background, positive reinforcement of calm, non-aggressive behavior around other dogs is the key to helping your pup overcome any fear or dislike of other canines. While edible treat rewards provide a good form of positive reinforcement, Vail doesn’t always recommend using them exclusively because this can lead to overfeeding and overweight dogs. “Use behavioral markers like the phrase ‘Good,’ along with lots of love and play as rewards during socialization,” she says. “In addition, dogs who are fearful around other dogs may not want to take a treat but a toy is a good reward for them.”
Where to Socialize Your Dog to Other Dogs
While dog parks can be a good option (if done responsibly) for dogs who are friendly around other dogs, Vail doesn’t recommend them for most dogs. “I’m not a fan of dog parks because I’ve seen too many accidents. You don’t know the status of the other dogs in there, their behavior, or their health history,” she says. Instead, she says that play dates in your yard or in enclosed tennis courts with other dogs who you know won’t behave aggressively around your dog are best.
Another option she endorses are doggy daycare facilities. “All dogs who are in these facilities are usually required to have all of their vaccinations and there are several people around to monitor the dog’s behavior,” she says. “Dog are also typically grouped by size, energy, and personality, ensuring a good experience for your dog.”
How to Introduce a New Dog to Your Household
It’s one thing to get your dog acclimated to the occasional visit from another dog, but it’s quite another if the goal is to get your dog a permanent canine companion. Vail advises that initial introductions be done outside the house. “The home is the current pup’s territory and an outside location like a park or a friend’s yard provides a neutral location,” she advises. “An initial introduction can last up to an hour and you’ll want to take your time.”
Once you’ve brought the dogs home, she says that they shouldn’t go unsupervised together until you know that they are compatible. She also recommends that all the toys and bones go away so that there is a clean playing field in the home for several days or weeks as the dogs get used to each other. This way, the pups won’t engage in resource guarding and fight over ownership of these items.
How to Ensure that Dog Roommates Get Along
Once your dogs are together in the home, regularly reward them with praise, play, and treats for good behavior around each other. “Monitor your dogs around each other and remember that when a dog is first in your home, they are getting used to you and getting used to your dog. It takes at least three months for them to acclimate and get situated,” she says.
Teaching pups to get along takes time and patience. Plus, younger dogs may have more energy than older ones and this can cause discord. You may need to exercise your younger dog more often to calm them down. With time, your dogs should fall into a routine and set their pack status, says Vail.
How AKC Activities Help with Dog Socialization
The AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy class, the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program, and activities like agility, tracking, and scent work are great ways for your dog to learn new skills and socialize with other dogs. “The CGC program is what I consider level two of obedience where a dog has to have the basic obedience skill set already. It helps build their skill set a bit more and exposes them to different settings and environments, increasing their confidence level,” says Vail. She has even seen very anti-social and fearful dogs enter her CGC classes and end up with therapy dog certifications down the line.
When to Seek Further Help for Antisocial Dogs
If your pup is showing severe aggression around other dogs within your home or during walks, it’s time to seek the help of a professional trainer or animal behaviorist, says Vail. “Every case is different and behavior modification can take weeks, months, or years. Sometimes it’s good to seek a professional trainer to get a new set of eyes on the situation.”