Parenting an adult rescue dog is tough, especially if they have a history of abuse or neglect. What's more, many rescue dogs have not been adequately socialized prior to adoption.
Undersocialized dogs can be difficult to parent and may injure you or themselves unintentionally. They may bolt when confronted with another dog or even attempt to bite out of fear. Undersocialization can make for many difficult situations, even if dogs don’t go out much. Routine vet trips could turn into an uncooperative frenzy with an undersocialized dog.
Adding to this challenge is the fact that adult dogs are already past the crucial socialization period that happens in early puppyhood. By adulthood, some rescues have already developed food aggression, dog reactivity, and anxiety, which can further inhibit the desire to socialize. Thankfully, most dogs can overcome these fears and inhibitions with training and behavior modification.
Learning your dog’s triggers and how to overcome them is the first step in creating positive social experiences for your dog. Is Fido fearful of people, dogs, or both? Do certain situations and settings make a difference in their response to others? These are all things to consider when devising a training plan for your rescue.
Getting a history report from the rescue or shelter can assist you in determining your dog’s possible triggers. Learning about your canine’s past will help you find socialization techniques that won’t overwhelm them.
Socializing can be a scary endeavor for many rescues, and this fear may manifest as aggression. If your dog is reactive, aggressive, or fearful, you should consider investing in a muzzle. Muzzles might look uncomfortable, but most dogs tolerate them quite well. Have your dog practice wearing their muzzle around the house before taking them out in it.
Lastly, it’s important to manage your expectations when socializing an adult rescue. Many rescues have trust issues from past experiences and have every right to be wary of humans or other animals.
Remember, socialization takes time, so don’t expect your dog to miraculously transform into a social butterfly overnight. Your rescue might never learn to love the dog park, but the important thing is they learn to tolerate others without fear or aggression.
Having the right equipment is essential when training a rescue dog to socialize. For this, you’ll need a snug-fitting harness and a short leash. These tools will help you maneuver your dog easily if a situation gets too intense.
Finding the right place to socialize is crucial when dealing with an adult rescue. You’ll want somewhere quiet with minimal distractions so that your dog can focus on the other dog or person.
Socializing in the dog’s own home is ideal for most, but it can trigger a territorial dog. If your dog is territorial, it might be better to socialize them in a public setting or someone else’s home.
Trying to socialize your dog among strangers isn’t always the right starting place with rescues. Instead, solicit one or two good friends to help you navigate the socialization process.
It’s a good idea to have your pet spayed or neutered before attempting to socialize them. Having your pet fixed can prevent aggression and breeding behaviors that may interfere with socialization.
Watch your pet closely when interacting with others. If your dog begins to tuck their tail, snarl, or flatten their ears, it might be a good idea to end the session. You don’t want your dog to become overwhelmed since this may make them not want to socialize in the future. Remember, you can always pick up where you left off later.
Never yell, scold, or otherwise punish your dog for misbehaving or refusing to socialize — this will only increase fear and may make them withdraw even further. Instead, use positive reinforcement measures like treats and gentle praise to enforce the good behaviors.