How to Train Your Dog to Be More Social

Easy
1-2 Months
Behavior

Introduction

You go out for a walk and your normally loving pup lunges and barks at everyone or everything he sees! Not only is this embarrassing, it’s dangerous. Your dog could pull away from you and get lost or run into traffic, he could run afoul of another bigger, meaner dog, or he could pull you over. Some dogs express their lack of socialization by retreating or hiding. This can also lead to a dog that runs away from a social situation, and into trouble. Your dog is not happy, you're not happy, and no one the two of you encounter is likely to enjoy your dog’s company very much either.

Dogs are naturally social creatures. Think about a pack of your dog's wild cousins, their survival depends on being part of a social group. Your dog definitely wants to be social, but depending on his past experiences, he just might not know how. If you have a dog that has come from a situation in which they were isolated, neglected, or abused, or where a transition occurred which may have caused emotional stress to your dog, you may need to help him to develop his social skills! Most of us require our dogs to be social with other people and with other animals, so if your dog needs help with his social skills, you will have to give him some guidance.

Defining Tasks

If your dog acts aggressive, barks, growls or otherwise is not his usual charming self around other people, or animals, you are going to need to give him some etiquette lessons! You will need to establish whether your dog is aggressive or fearful, or a combination of both, to help counteract this and teach your dog another way of interacting with others. Has there been abuse? Is your dog just inexperienced? Determining what is causing his antisocial behavior so you can address it will be useful in developing strategies and experiences to develop socialization. You want your dog to develop the ability to be around others in a confident, calm and relaxed way. Providing your dog with positive social experiences in a controlled environment, in which he feels comfortable and follows your leadership, will develop a dog that responds appropriately in social situations with other people and dogs.

Getting Started

Never use punishment to redirect an antisocial dog, as this just creates a negative experience associated with the social situation and will make existing antisocial behavior much worse. If your dog has acted up before in a social environment, do not give into that memory and tense up or be nervous about his behavior, as this will make your dog nervous and tense. You want to teach and encourage your dog to see other people and animals as friends, pack members, and have a positive, rewarding experience. You should be calm and confident in social experiences to provide your dog with the guidance he needs.

You will need a leash, treats to reward appropriate behavior, and lots of friends, both furry and otherwise, to assist you. If your dog is prone to be aggressive or bite, you may want to use a basket muzzle to ensure everyone is safe during training.

The Desensitize to Dogs Method

Effective
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Step
1
Go
Take your dog on leash to a setting with other dogs, such as a dog park or a friend’s house or yard with other dogs. Approach, but do not enter.
Step
2
Approach
Approach the fence or door. Wait. When your dog is calm and shows no signs of retreat, or barking or growling, give him treat.
Step
3
Enter
Enter the yard, home or park. Keep your dog on leash. Let him get used to being around other dogs. If necessary, put a muzzle on him if there is a danger to other animals.
Step
4
Ignore
If he reacts fearfully or aggressively, ignore the behavior. Do not pet him, reassure him, or punish him. Do not react in any way.
Step
5
Reward
When your dog is calm, reward him with a treat. Repeat this process, getting closer and closer to the other dogs until your dog learns to react calmly and get a reward. Repeat in multiple settings, with different dogs, over a period of weeks and months until your dog learns to be calm and friendly with other dogs and be positively reinforced for his behavior.
Recommend training method?

The Desensitize to People Method

Effective
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Step
1
Expose
Have a friend come to your home, or go to a friend’s home. Start with one person at a time.
Step
2
Entice
If your dog reacts negatively to another person’s presence, ignore the behavior. If your dog retreats, put out some high-value treats, like bacon or chicken, near the new person to tempt the dog to come and interact. Do not make a big deal about your dog's behavior or insist that he comes out. Most dogs will come out for a high value, smelly food on their own.
Step
3
Encourage proximity
Give the new person a treat, have the person quietly offer the treat to the dog by placing it on the ground nearby. Wait for the dog to take it.
Step
4
Encourage closer
Offer another treat, a little closer this time. Do not drag or force the dog to accept, wait for the dog to come get the treat on his own. Be patient, if the dog does not come closer, move the treat a little farther away and wait for a positive response.
Step
5
Repeat
Repeat often with the same “new” person until your dog accepts their presence, then introduce another new person repeat the procedure. Repeat with different people, and eventually settings, over a period of weeks or months until your dog learns to accept new people and associate other people with positive rewards.
Recommend training method?

The Pack Up Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Walk
Put your dog on a leash and go for a walk.
Step
2
Meet
Meet another person, or a person with another dog, that you have pre-planned. If your dog has a tendency to be aggressive, you may want to use a basket muzzle. Walk parallel to the new person and their dog.
Step
3
Ignore
If your dog is behaving badly, put your body between your dog and the new person or dog at first.
Step
4
Reward
When your dog comes along quietly and appropriately, even for a few steps, give a treat.
Step
5
Repeat and reinforce
Continue, ignoring inappropriate behavior and rewarding appropriate behavior, until your dog learns to walk with his new pack members. Repeat often and with different people and dogs.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 11/14/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
kokkie
bichon havanese
5 Months
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Question
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kokkie
bichon havanese
5 Months

My dog is always running around in my house. he does his business in my house always and he doesn't know any basic training. We got him before the pandemic (covid 19) and since my family is very strict we did not let him go a day out due to coronavirus because we thought dogs would sniff the floor outside and then catch the pandemic. Now I took him to a campus and he was barking at everyone, Through research I figured this was because of a lack of socialization. I know my dog loves me but he just doesn't listen sit or stay. I would need some help training him with some tips. I couldn't even get a proper pic so I had to use a pic from some months from now. I hope you could help. Thank you

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
836 Dog owners recommended

Hello Amen, First, check out the crate training method from the article linked below to work on potty training. Follow it strictly to help pup catch up. You can also use the tethering method when you want pup to stick by you more once pup is doing better after starting the crate training method. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside Check out the article linked below for things to practice to help with socialization. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ I suggest taking pup to as many safe outdoor places as you can and carrying treats with you. Have people toss pup treats whenever pup reacts calmly. Encourage pup to practice calm things like Sit and Down in public, and reward calm responses. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
snowy
Shih Tzu
9 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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snowy
Shih Tzu
9 Months

I want her to be more social with others and not to be lazy

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
836 Dog owners recommended

Hello Meera, If pup isn't fearful or aggressive, but simply not motivated to interact, I would desensitize pup to touch yourself, then have friends practice it with her too, so that she associates being touched by people with rewarding things. I would also teach her a "Say Hi" or "Touch" command to encourage her to approach your friends and family. To work on getting pup used to touch and handling use pup's daily meal kibble to do this. Gently touch an area of pup's body while feeding a piece of food. Touch an ear and give a treat. Touch a paw and give a treat. Hold their collar and give a treat. Touch their tail gently and give a treat. Touch their belly, their other paws, their chest, shoulder, muzzle and every other area very gently and give a treat each time. Keep these times calm and fun for pup. Touch - The Palm method - you can also put a little drop of peanut butter or squeeze cheese or moist dog food on your hand at first. https://wagwalking.com/training/tap-objects-with-his-nose Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
MANSON
Choxi
7 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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MANSON
Choxi
7 Months

How can I make MANSON more social.!?!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
836 Dog owners recommended

Hello Capry To fully answer your question I need a bit more information about pup's current behavior. Are they fearful of people? Aggressive toward people? Reserved or shy but not fearful or aggressive? For true fear or aggression, additional training will be needed, but for a reserved or shy dog I recommend the exercises in the section on shy dogs and humans from the article below, and teaching pup a Say Hi command so they learn to associate people with good things. Shy dogs: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ Say Hi/Touch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj1oMlfjPZ8 Know that some dogs are simply more reserved and prefer only those they know, as long as their isn't aggression or fear present that needs to be addressed, this isn't necessarily an issue, simply personality. You can help them interact with the world more when needed by teaching things like Say Hi. When not being told to interact they will probably go back to withdrawing a bit out of personal preference still though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
daisy
Mutt
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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daisy
Mutt
10 Months

daisy was neglected as a pup. i rescued her when she was 3 months old. she is so skittish & spooked very easily. she’s also scared of most men. i’ve tried to reward her with treats when she goes near new people, but she is so scared that she won’t take the treat. how do i train this out of her?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
836 Dog owners recommended

Hello Maddie, Check out the article I have linked below. Under the How do You Socialize a Shy Dog with a Human"? section of the article, pay special attention to the sections on pairing people with fun and managing interactions. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ You may also want to try the pair people with treats section again, since the issue might be not putting enough distance between pup and new people at first - dogs often won't take food when too stressed, so having new people too close to pup at first while training might be making their stress too high, so they don't want the food, increasing distance between them may help, but if not using other things mentioned in the fun and managing interactions sections can help too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Tux
Labrador Retriever
15 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Tux
Labrador Retriever
15 Months

When I take Tux for a walk we will run into a few people and he will bark sometimes. If It's a dog he will jump and bark and I can't get him to really listen. I have only had him for three weeks I've been working with him everyday But sometimes everything we work on goes out the door

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
227 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell his fear. First we reduce his fear around new dogs, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs because of genetic reasons, lack of socialization, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes having low thyroid levels contributes to unwanted canine behavior. During this time, avoid any punishment for reactivity. Doing so will make her concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate other dogs with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what an oncoming dog means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As the new dog comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the new dog causes meat to fall from the sky. When the other dog is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! As you are reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other leashed dogs, be careful where you take your dog, and be protective of what she is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram her opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage (or somewhere out of the way if those two options aren't possible) with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees another dog, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening dog and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at his (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell your dog "watch me" every time you see another dog approaching. Your end goal is for your dog to see another dog, and remain calm, looking at you for guidance. And this will be either continuing your walk, or being allowed to interact with the other dog. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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