According to the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” not much can be done to change a senior dog’s ingrained habits. While the “old dog” saying might be entertaining to some, it is assuredly not rooted in facts. Although socializing may not be a “new trick” per se, it is an essential behavior to learn, for both humans and canines. However, for some senior pets, especially those who struggle with shyness and anxiety, socialization can be a challenging skill to master. Luckily, there are several techniques that dog owners can call upon to help guide their beloved senior canine to get along with others.
Senior Dog Socialization Technique #1: Introduce New People
Introducing a timid senior canine to people is a two-part process that involves a social event with the absence of physical interaction. When new people come over to visit, they should be directed to ignore a dog, at least for the time being. The exception would be when a pet actively seeks attention from a visitor, which is a clear sign of improvement.
Since timid dogs tend to be skittish, a relaxing, familiar environment is necessary. At this point, it is essential to limit the number of people visiting as too many individuals may intimidate them. So, begin with one or two visitors, preferably adults or older children. Only when a dog displays less stress should more individuals be introduced.
Senior Dog Socialization Technique #2: Introduce Dogs (On Neutral Ground)
It’s essential to choose a neutral area to make it easier for older canines to meet new pals. That means dog parks and visiting friends who have dogs is out of the question. On neutral ground, pets can decide to approach other canines if they so wish, on their terms. Keep an eye on doggy body language as this will signal the state of the social situation. Wagging tails and relaxed muscles are common “friendly” signs.
Senior Dog Socialization Technique #3: Add Outdoor Adventures
Canine sidekicks can make running a tedious errand a lot more exciting. To make it easier on a pet, take them along on short trips that don’t require leaving them in the car, such as the drive-through of a bank or a pet-friendly store. For a less-stressful adventure, avoid rush hour when it’s time to venture out with your sidekick. Make it a point to praise Fido’s good behavior with some praise and a treat to reinforce their responses positively.
Senior Dog Socialization Technique #4: Go Back To (Puppy) Basics
Sometimes, older pups just need to get back to basics by heading to puppy school where they will be exposed to different dogs, people, and situations. Since puppies are much less aggressive, timid seniors aren’t as likely to become intimidated. When seniors go back to basics, so do their humans, and that means the class will also teach owners a thing or two about communication.
Senior Dog Socialization Technique #5: It’s All About The Praise (And The Treats)!
Make it a habit of checking out new parks, exploring different places, and just try experimenting in general by riding off on another adventure. With timid seniors, sometimes it’ll work and sometimes and it won’t, but once a dog starts edging out of their comfort zone, they need to be praised and encouraged. A loving pat, gentle tickle, and soothing word is a wonderful way to encourage a beloved companion and promote positive behavior. And, so is a yummy treat!