Socialisation Tips for Adult Dogs

July 7, 2024

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As our dogs age, their behaviour and social skills can sometimes regress. It’s not uncommon for a previously well-socialised dog to develop new anxieties or react poorly in certain situations. This is where refreshing your grown-up dog’s social skills can make a significant difference.

It’s important to know that some changes in behaviour can also be linked to pain and illness, especially in older dogs. A vet health check can help identify any underlying issues that might be causing or contributing to your dog’s behaviour changes.

Book a Dog Health Check 

Why refresh your dog’s socialisation skills

A well-socialised dog is generally calm, confident, and comfortable in various environments and situations. They can interact peacefully with other dogs and people, displaying natural behaviours like sniffing, playing, and friendly barking. However, if a dog’s social skills deteriorate, they might become fearful or reactive, exhibiting behaviours such as cowering and trying to get away, or loud barking, growling, and even aggression.

Why a dog’s socialisation skills deteriorate over time

  • Lack of Regular Practice: Over time, without consistent reinforcement, a dog’s training can slip.
  • Life Stage Changes: Older dogs may develop physical issues like stiff joints, making them less eager for play and more prone to defensive behaviours – if you suspect there may be underlying discomfort, book a check-up.
  • Traumatic Experiences:  Negative experiences, such as being attacked by another dog, can lead to increased anxiety and fearfulness.

Refresher socialisation tips for adult dogs

Refreshing your dog’s socialisation skills requires patience, a structured approach, and positive reinforcement. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Refresh Basic Commands & Training: Before tackling socialisation, ensure your dog’s basic training is solid. They should respond well to commands like sit, down, stay, and walk nicely on the lead.

2. Acclimatise to New Sounds:  If your dog reacts to specific sounds, such as the doorbell, hoover, thunder, or fireworks, you can desensitise them over time by playing recordings at a low volume. Reward your dog when they remain calm, gradually increasing the volume over time.

3. Experience Different Environments: Gradually reintroduce your dog to various environments. Start with calm, familiar places like a friend’s house or your local park. Reward positive behaviour with treats and praise. Once your dog is comfortable, slowly introduce busier locations like town centres and dog-friendly shops. Garden centres can be an ideal place for your dog to practice their socialisation skills.

 4. Meet Other Dogs:  If your dog used to be sociable but has started to regress, this strategy is crucial to re-master to ensure happy and safe adventures together. Introduce your dog to other dogs in a controlled setting. Begin with parallel walks, then progress to off-led play in secure areas. Always monitor interactions closely to ensure they are positive and ideally opt for a controlled environment away from home, as dogs may be territorial over their own space.

5. Join Dog Training Classes: Enrolling your dog in training classes can be beneficial for the both of you. These classes provide structured environments for social interaction and learning new commands, reinforcing positive behaviours.

Remember, patience, structure, and positive reinforcement are key. If you have any queries, we’re always here to help and if there are significant difficulties around your dog’s behaviour we can refer you to a qualified behaviourist for further help.

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