The most critical time for your new puppy to learn and mature is up to about the first 3 to 12 weeks of his life. For this reason, it is extremely important to warm your pup up to socializing with older dogs. This will likely make your dog more friendly and confident when he grows to be an adult.
Without socialization, adult dogs can grow up to be shy, fearful, or even ill-mannered in unfamiliar situations. Likewise, if your puppy is not acclimated to different environmental factors such as loud sounds, foreign smells, and strangers, he may shy away from these things when older and may be difficult to manage down the road.
New and challenging situations or tasks can help train a dog in these circumstances. Particularly, socializing a puppy with an older dog will need regular practice. The more regulated and consistent these social sessions are, the easier it will be for your dog to get used to socializing with the other pups – and even look forward to it.
The first dogs you introduce your puppy to should be safe, friendly dogs that are healthy and vaccinated. These first few experiences with older dogs could help your puppy associate playing with positivity. That being said, there are many other ways to help your dog socialize and play with with older pups after these first few happy interactions.
Rewards and Treats
Rewarding your dog’s good behavior can go a long way. Giving him a treat for positive behavior is encouraging, and will help your dog realize what actions are warranted and vice versa. Get together a pile of treats to toss to your dog whenever he makes a new friend, approaches another dog curiously, or after a long day playing with other pups at the park.
Friends of All Kinds
Before the sniff test, make sure your dog is approaching other friendly dogs first. Getting two dogs comfortable with each other can sometimes even set up the opportunity for more doggy dates to come! Dog parks are a great way to meet other owners and their dogs, as are beaches and dog-friendly neighborhoods if there aren’t any nearby. Try to get your dog to hang out with a variety of other dogs. The more the merrier – and your dog will become acclimated to hanging with a lot of different breeds.
However, be precautious when introducing dogs to one another. When playing, larger or more aggressive dogs could accidentally harm dogs that are extremely small or young. It’s possible that they will get along just fine, but it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution when making sure your pet has a good time – without getting injuries and such!
Also, make sure your dog is vaccinated. Playing outside with free range can seem like a grand idea, but there are chances for your dog to catch bacteria and diseases from other dogs. Getting your dog vaccinated will help prevent him from catching and spreading illnesses, as well as help prevent spreading viral diseases to others.
On the other hand, be sure to strike a balance by letting your pup play in environments that are more intimate and controlled. Invite dogs of family or friends over to play, or go over to their houses instead. These places are great for dogs who aren’t allowed outside, or for setting up a doggy date that you don’t need to constantly have your eyes on.
Look and Listen to Negative Interactions
If your puppy has a negative interaction with an older dog, it might be a good idea to remove him from the situation. This could be indicated by anything from dogs’ withdrawal from the situation or sensitivity around certain dogs, to little nonverbal reactions that require more attentive observance.
If your dog isn’t wagging his tail with his ears perked up and isn’t actively receptive to playing with the other dogs, look for other signs that your dog might be uncomfortable, stressed, or even anxious. Some of these signs might include ears back or down rather than up and perched, or tail tucking instead of happy wagging.
Withdrawal from the situation due to tiredness or shutting down might include frequent yawning, lip licking, turning heads to either side constantly to avoid direct interaction with others, or even sleeping. Cowering or clinging to other objects, people, or the owner could also mean that your dog is experiencing anxiety or nervousness.
If you see your dog doing one or more of these things, it is best to avoid further interaction and take him or her away rather than spawn encouragement. If your dog is learning to socialize with older dogs, associated negative interactions should be avoided if not revisited later.