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

ribbon-method-1
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.
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The Desensitize to People Method

ribbon-method-2
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

ribbon-method-3
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
Sassy
schnauzer
3 Years
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Question
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Sassy
schnauzer
3 Years

A Toy Schnauzer who frantically barks, and acts aggressive (goes berserk) toward people and other animals.She tries to get away from me,and has, trying to get at her target. I can't take her out if there is anyone, or any animal, within eyesight or she just loses it. She is not aggressive with me, but barks nonstop if someone else comes to my home. I usually have to put her to bed to get her to calm down. I have 2 Toy Schnauzers (sisters from the same litter), but Sassy is the more aggressive.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Betty, I recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression and reactivity to come to your home and work in person with you. I would look for someone who comes well recommended by their previous clients for work with aggression and reactivity, and ideally who works with a staff or team of trainers, so there are others who can be involved in the training sessions to pretend to be guests and strangers that you are desensitizing pup to. To see some examples of this type of training - https://www.youtube.com/c/JamiePenrithDogTraining/search?query=aggression Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bella
Chihuahua/mix
1 Year
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Question
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Bella
Chihuahua/mix
1 Year

I rescued her and was told she came from hoarder situation. I’ve had her two+ weeks and she does well with me, except if I want to put her harness on her, then she runs away..no growling, no barking. Not good with other people when they come in the house. Barks, backs away, eventually if they are seated she will sniff their feet.
Outside she is afraid of everyone and terrified of any other dogs, especially if they try to approach her.I am afraid she might slip her harness.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Pat, First, make sure that the harness a comfortable secure one. Check out Ruffwear's webmaster harnesses. I don't know if they have one small enough for her, but that type of padded three point connection is what you ideally want for a dog who is a flight risk and harness sensitive. I recommend going slow with the introduction. Harness introduction how to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn5b8u1YS_g&feature=emb_title Instead of trying to get pup's head in the harness all at once, spend one day simply laying the harness on the ground and sprinkling treats around it several times a day. Leave the harness there so pup doesn't feel like you are hovering so she will come get the treats, until she is comfortable enough to come even when you are standing there. Do this until pup is comfortable touching it without you holding the harness - go at pup's pace. Watch their body language and stay at this step until pup is relaxed again around the harness. That may take one training session or a week - depending on how suspicious pup is of the harness at this point. Practicing for short periods multiple times a day can help things go more quickly. Once pup is comfortable just touching the harness on their own to get treats around it, hold it in your hand and have pup eat treats out of the hand that is holding the harness. Do this until pup isn't worried about you holding the harness up anymore - don't try to suddenly put it on pup yet or that will set you back. Practice at this step until pup looks happy and confident again with the harness just being held up. End the training session while pup is doing well still. Next, loosen the harness as much as you can so that it makes a large loop, hold the harness up with one hand and hold the treats through the harness' neck hole with your other hand, so that pup has to move their head toward the harness hole to eat the treats - don't require pup to put their head through the hole yet, just in front of the hole. Do this step until pup is happy and confident about the harness being held up and approaching it - do NOT suddenly try to throw the harness over pup's head or move it toward them - pup is the one moving, you are keeping the harness still at this point. Practice that step until pup is relaxed - even if that takes several sessions. Next, hold the harness the same way, but offer the treats a bit closer to the harness, so that pup has to poke the end of their muzzle through the harness loop to take them. Practice this until pup is comfortable doing that. As pup relaxes, move your treat hand a bit further back so that pup is poking their head through the harness more and more as they improve - again, don't move the harness toward pup at this point. Let pup move their head in and out of the loose harness freely to get treats. Practice until pup has no issues with placing their head through the harness. Go back a step and practice at that step for longer before continuing if pup becomes nervous again. Next, once pup is comfortable poking their entire head through the harness, move the harness very slightly back and forth while holding it up, and holding treats in the harness for pup to move their head through it - you are just getting pup used to the harness moving, not putting it on yet. The harness should still be a large loop at this point - not fitted. Practice until pup can handle the harness moving. As pup improves, gradually increase how much the harness is moving back and forth while pup reaches their head through it, and begin moving the straps together like you will when you buckle the chest area too. Next, have pup poke their head through the harness, and reward pup with several treats at a time for keeping their head in the hole for longer. Also, reward pup when you move the chest straps together as if you were going to buckle them. Gradually increase how long pup holds their head in the harness for by spacing out rewards as they keep their head in the hole. Next, when pup can hold their head in the harness for longer, have pup poke their head through the harness, sprinkle several treats on something that's at pup's chin height so that your hands are free, and slide the buckle that adjusts the harness size back and forth while pup eats the treats. Start with small movements then stop touching the harness - you are just getting pup used to you messing with the harness a bit. Practice this until you can gradually work up to being able to adjust the size of the harness completely without pup feeling worried, while they eat the treats off the object at chin height. Once pup is can hold their head in the harness for several minutes while you adjust it, without being worried, adjust it to the proper size, clip the chest straps together and leave it on pup for a couple of hours when you can spend time playing with pup and distracting them with treats and kibble stuffed toys, to help them get used to the feel of it. Practice this daily for a couple weeks, making each harness wearing full of treats and play while its on, until they get to the point where they can forget they are wearing it. Most dogs will scratch at it and feel like it's itchy for at least a week when you first have them wear a harness. Choose a harness that's fitted correctly and doesn't chaff. When you catch pup itching at the harness, distract pup with a fun toy. Check out the video linked below for an example of getting pup to poke their head through an opening. The dog in that video wasn't afraid of the harness during training - so the training was done in one sitting for the sake of showing the steps, but expect your pup to need several sessions between each training step - moving too quickly will likely set pup back. Pup needs to get to the point where they are completely relaxed at the current step before you proceed to the next step - how long that takes will simply depend on pup's specific temperament. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn5b8u1YS_g&feature=emb_title Check out this article on shy dogs: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ Kikopup's channel on youtube is also a good resource for learning how to counter condition and desensitize a nervous dog to things. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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

How can I make MANSON more social.!?!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 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
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
1123 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
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
257 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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