The Ultimutt Guide to Socializing Dogs


(In this picture, Boru and Betty wait for the ball to be thrown at a dog friendly lake photo credit: Stacie DeCosta)

Quinley Woods, Author, Layout

Everyone’s dog is arguably the best dog. You love your dogs, and they seem to love you more than they love themselves. They are our security alarms, our pillows, and a shoulder to cry on. They are family and bestfriends, they meet us at the door after a long day, full of love and waggy tails.  But there’s more to them than just that, they can be insecure, shy and anxious.

Making your dog comfortable in his own skin is vital, you do this through socialization. It’s simple in a way, If you get your dog as a puppy that is, it might be a little more difficult if they’re older. (In this picture, Boru and Betty wait for the ball to be thrown at a dog friendly lake  photo credit: Stacie DeCosta)

Now you may be asking, why is socializing my dog so important? Aggression in dogs can be caused by many things from territorialism to resource guarding. But one of the main causes is not being socialized, and along with aggression, it can cause fear.

Research shows that it’s never too late, but socialization is crucial between 8 weeks and 4 months. Their brains are taking in everything they can, so it’s important to show them that new things aren’t scary and can actually be quite fun. 

As they grow introduce them to new things, like sounds, people, and animals (yes all types of animals.) Dog parks are a great place for this, they’re a great place for dogs of all ages. 

But before we get into the nitty gritty of dog parks, let’s talk about your dog and what’s going on inside their head.

When you introduce a puppy to, let’s say a new dog, they’ll be a little cautious but their tail still thumps away, and learn pretty quickly, that this dog is a good thing, even a friend! But if you were to do the same with an older dog who wasn’t socialized, it might go a little differently.

One of Oakmont Regional High Schools English teachers Mr. Dewhurst, talks about a story of his girlfriend’s dog, the dog’s name is Chase. 

“My girlfriends parents have some sort of terrier.” He says “It’s fairly medium to small sized… they took it for a walk, and there was a couple walking their dog.” The dog saw Chase, and proceeded to attack him, breaking his leg, and biting off another part of his hind. The dog who attacked had been put down after the incident. 

This sadly could have been a result of lacking socialization, but there is no way of knowing.

Mr. Kostich, one of Oakmont Regional High School’s biology teachers, for a whole eight years. He’s had his dog, Hidge, for four years. Mr. Kostich did in fact socialize him, with doggy day care, walks and dog parks. 

He finds it very important that dogs are socialized, so they can have the skills they need to be a dog, accepted by others, and knowing how to act. 

“There’s a lot of weird little dogs, doing weird little things that haven’t been socialized.” Mr. Kostich says in his interview in the schools cafeteria, during ping-pong club. 

As Mr. Kostich and many others do, they take their dogs to parks. There are many advantages to dog parks, not only the social bit, for you and your pet. 

It gives your dog off leash exercise that leash laws often restrict your dog from having, and if you don’t have a backyard it’s a great place to let them stretch their legs. 

But it’s not perfect, there are rules for good reason which not everyone is going to follow, either because of lack of knowledge for why the rules are there, or they simply do not care. 

For instance, make sure your dog is neutered. Aggression shows much more in unneutered males, especially towards other male dogs, fixed or not. Don’t bring your dogs personal toys to the park, it eliminates the chance of guarding aggression, even if your dog has never shown it before. And if your dog just seems to be picking on the others, remove him from the park until calmed down. 

Inevitably people will break these rules. The owners play a very important role and some may be uneducated. So trust yourself and your knowledge about your dog. 

Educate yourself before you get a dog, and continue to research even after you find the perfect pup, take them on walks and to dog parks, just be prepared and aware when you do, it’s in your pup’s best interest.