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Worried about Older Dog's Misbehaviour? A step-by-step guide on socializing an older dog

Updated by Sheryl on Nov 4, 2021

Have you recently rescued an older dog who didn't get the best start in life? Or, your pup missed the chance for early socialization because he was too sick to play outside?

Well, that doesn't mean he has to live the rest of his life without making a dog best friend or playing with others. This article shares thoughts on how can you socialize an older dog.

old brown dog
  • Can you socialize an older dog
  • How to socialize an older dog
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Dogs can be socialized at any time of their life. The difference with adult dogs is that their solicitation can be more challenging.

Like humans, the brain functions less actively as dogs get older. Puppies, who have a more flexible brain, are more open to new experiences they face every day-- being around people, animals, smells, sounds, surfaces. But an adult dog who has never been around these situations can become nervous or aggressive.

You may notice two types of behavior in adult unsocialized dogs:

  • Overactive or aggressive: These dogs will have a hard stare, bark, lunge, and show bare teeth. Aggressiveness can make them bite.
  • Fear or nervousness: Signs of fear include whining, hiding, ears laid back, shaking, tail tucked between legs, and sweaty paws.

Because the adult brain is less responsive, it takes more effort to help an adult dog come out of his fears and anxieties. This may require more time but socializing an adult dog is possible with the right training.

two dogs

Soliciting an older dog is a game of patience. You have to keep the experience positive and cheer on small achievements. Here's how to socialize an adult dog:

Step 1: Use a muzzle for safety

If you worry that your dog will bark or growl at other dogs, you should wear him a muzzle. It's the best possible way you can prevent an unfortunate incident. Besides, a muzzle will also help maintain a calmer environment around you.

Dogs can sense emotions. So, when everyone you interact with is calm and relaxed, your dog is likely to behave in a positive way.

dog with muzzle

Step 2: Walk with your dog frequently

Start by walking with your dog more frequently. Walking is a wonderful way to socialize older dogs as it introduces them to many new experiences- being around other people, animals, smells, sounds, etc.

Walking outside will allow you to work on your dog's social conduct. Besides, walking is an exercise that will keep his energy levels down. Hence, your dog will respond in a calmer and submissive way.

Your dog may bark or try to pull on the leash. In that case, don't pull back the leash or scold them. As it will only elevate the tension levels, and they will remember it as a negative experience. Instead, turn the leash into another direction, give them a treat, and calmly walk away.

Try more tips in our blog of train a dog to walk on a leash.

dog in the outside

Step 3: Reward him on every step

Feed him small treats as he encounters new things. Give him treats and lots of praise, saying good boy" whenever he experiences new situations or approaches new people. It will encourage him to reciprocate with a positive attitude.

Remember, you want to make him comfortable around new things. So, don't completely distract them from the surroundings. Your goal is to make him aware of the situation with a calmer attitude.

happy dog

Step 4: Let him explore but always keep a safe distance

Stand next to your dog and follow his path. Watch their body language. If he's walking slowly to the new thing; it's a good sign that he's curious. Let him move forward to the thing but don't let him go too close. Watch from a safe distance and give him treats as he stops by your side.

If your dog is dragging you or has a hard stare, he is stressed. If he refuses treats while approaching the new thing, it's a red flag. Move him away and feed treats from a greater distance for a while.

dog in the outside

Step 5: Practice

Repeat new activities as much as possible. With time your dog will seem more relaxed around new things. He may even start to look at you for treats each time he encounters something new.

Step 6: Invite visitors

Invite friends and family to your place, one at a time. Let them approach your dog slowly, taking in a low approaching voice. Make sure your dog is leashed before this. You don't want any unfortunate incidents to occur. Let new people approach him with his favorite toy or treat so that he can develop positive associations.

If he draws back or cowers, don't force him as it can make him more anxious. Try another time when he seems to be more comfortable and approachable.

puppy and human

Step 7: Slowly work on taking him inside a dog park

When it comes to taking an older dog inside a dog park, you should take things really slowly. Dog parks are ideally the ultimate place for socialization. Even if your dog has started giving positive responses to meeting new people, you shouldn't allow him directly inside a god park.

Start by taking your dog near the dog park and make him watch other dogs. Slowly, take him near the fence and let him sniff around a bit. If your dog pulls or shows aggressive behavior, move him away and start over when they are relaxed.

If your dog behaves in a friendly manner, encourage him more by offering him treats. Don't be disheartened if your dog doesn't get to experience a good first visit to a dog park. Training and practice will make things perfect.

dog socialization

Step 8: Watch your attitude

Dogs can sense your emotions. If you are stressed out or start to panic, so will your dog. Stay calm and positive all the time. Don't force your dog into something. Forcing things will only make things worse. Let her come out of her zone at her own pace.

If she feels nervous around new things, stick to one thing at a time as too many stressors can make her aggressive.

old pug
You have to set realistic goals when you socialize older dogs. Understand the purpose of socializing is that you want your dog to feel comfortable around most of the things in life. She doesn't need to be the social butterfly.
Is it too late to socialize my dog?
Dogs can be socialized at any time of their life with the right training. Socializing an adult dog may require more work to do, but it's never too late.
What happens if a dog isn't socialized?
If a dog is left unsocialized, she may feel anxious and fearful of unfamiliar things. It can cause serious behavioral problems such as aggressiveness and biting behavior.


The Truth about Puppy Socialization

6 Best Ways to Socialize Your Puppies With Other Dogs and Humans

How to train a dog to walk on a leash?

Sheryl is an editor from iPetor, owns extensive pet care experience. As a professional writer, she can provide useful pet care tips for all "parents".
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