To be good pets, dogs require early-age socialization. Failure to socialize can result in a dog with crippling social anxiety, fear, and sometimes aggression. Dogs can be trained at any age and continue to learn throughout their lives. But the prime socialization period is when they are 6 to 8 weeks old. Dogs not exposed to positive experiences with humans, other pets, important places and situations during this period may become fearful and bite out of fright.
A dog needs to be with his mother and litter-mates until at least 8 weeks of age in order to learn canine social skills. They learn from other dogs in the first weeks of life how to interact appropriately with other dogs. Puppy Kindergarten classes are an excellent opportunity to socialize your puppy while keeping him safe because it is a controlled environment where all puppies in attendance are required to be up to date with vaccinations. Adult dogs can also experience social anxiety. It is most common in dogs rescued from puppy mills or abusive and neglectful situations. They may have had little or no human contact or only negative experiences with humans.
Signs of social anxiety:
- Aggressive behavior, such as barking, growing, or jumping
- Timid and fearful behavior, including cowering behind the owner
- Some dogs show signs of extreme nervousness like panting or drooling
- Destructive behavior
If your dog already has social anxiety, you can greatly improve his quality of life by helping him to overcome it. Move slowly to build his confidence and his social skills because the more experience he gains, the more confident he will become.
How to help:
- Start young, start socializing as soon as you get a puppy, ensure experiences are positive.
- Slowly introduce new people, have friends come over 1 at a time and completely ignore the dog until they initiate contact first. Give treats as a reward.
- Slowly introduce new animals, take them on a walk together first before bringing new dogs in the house.
- The next step is to go out into the world. Take your dog somewhere with lots of people but remain at a far enough distance from them that he does not panic. Gradually decrease the distance as he can tolerate it.
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