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New dog parents are often eager to introduce their dog to new friends of both the two legged and four legged varietals. Luckily, we are aware of the importance of socialization and there’s a lot of information out there that emphasizes the need to do so early in your dog’s life (or as early as you have come into your dog’s life). This does not mean, however, that we should make these introductions with haste and lack of management. It’s just as important, if not more important, that these meetings are set up carefully and that they go smoothly and are overall a positive experience for all involved. Even when bringing a new dog home to an existing pet, giving them space and time to acclimate can go a long way. Your current dog or cat may not be thrilled about sharing a home, or may be overjoyed to the point of frightening the new house guest. Whatever the scenario, it’s best to ease your dog into these introductions. Using baby gates to create safe spaces, closely monitoring interactions with lots of positive feedback (calmness, petting, treats, etc.) and separating whenever one of the parties seems overwhelmed are great techniques to ensure a positive experience. If the other animal happens to be a cat, create spaces to which the cat can escape such as shelves or counters above the dog’s reach. You can also designate certain areas in the house that are only for the cat or only for the dog to ensure a place they feel safe.

Some dogs may be easily overwhelmed by human attention. Make sure that anyone who wants to greet your dog does so in a calm, non-threatening manner. If your dog seems stressed, have them back off. Throwing treats, crouching down, using a calm voice, avoiding eye contact and turning sideways or with your back towards the dog are all ways to appear less threatening. With other dogs outside of the house, introduce first with a barrier such as a fence or on a leash so that you can move away from the other dog if you see signs of stress. Circle in towards the other dog as it is less threatening than walking straight up. Avoid dogs that are over aroused and already jumping or pulling at the end of the leash as these bad manners may stress your dog out. As long as the experiences your dog has are monitored and stay positive, the more meet and greets you do, the better!

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For those of you adding new four legged members to the family this winter, remember how important socialization is at a young age! Introduce your puppy (or dog if adopted at an older age) to as many new friends as possible! Set goals for meeting as many new people, FRIENDLY dogs and other creatures as possible! Invite people and their pets over or visit the park or other controlled environments for positive experiences with your dog. Socialization does not mean throwing your dog into situations that are overwhelming or scary. Be weary of dog parks packed with dogs and avoid other pets that do not want to meet or be bothered by your dog. Seek out positive interactions only and leave or separate at the first signs of any negativity or fear (growling, sideways looks from any dog showing white in the eyes, tails straight up or curled under, incessant licking or showing teeth, etc.). Most importantly, always keep your demeanor stress free and positive because your dog is reading your body language better than you yourself are even aware of it!puppy socialization

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