Tips for Socializing a New Dog to Prevent Dog Bites

Tips for Socializing a New Dog to Prevent Dog Bites

by / Wednesday, 26 August 2020 / Published in Dog Bites, Tips
Two people walking dog

When it comes to preventing dog bites, dog owners have the most power to put a stop to attacks before they happen. Owners understand their dogs best and over time, should know which kinds of situations are stressful for them, know when to remove them for a situation, and know what other measures should be taken to keep their dogs under control. They also have the responsibility to socialize their dogs so that they’re able to learn how to react to being in a greater range of situations.

Dog bites happen for many different reasons. Sometimes, dogs might lash out if they’re not feeling well or trying to take care of puppies. But very often, it’s because they feel afraid or threatened in some way. Socialization plays a vital role in helping dogs become more familiar with being around other people, other dogs, and in different settings. The more time dogs spend in these kinds of situations, the less likely it is they will lash out because of stress and anxiety.

For puppies, the socialization they experience in the first year of their life can help set the stage for the rest of their lives. But even if you’re planning to adopt an older dog, you may still need to help socialize them depending on what their personal history is like. Whether you’re working with a young puppy or an adult dog, here are some ways you can socialize them and put them more at ease.

Walk Your Dog Often

Not only is walking your dog good exercise for you and your dog, it’s an excellent way for dogs to naturally encounter other people, other dogs, and visit places outside your home. Going on walks is also a great way for dogs to get used to other things that can be stressful or exciting, like the sight of moving cars, joggers, and people on bikes, as well as noises like the sounds of traffic, children playing, and lawn mowers. As you walk, you’ll have a chance to help them learn to react appropriately. Try to mix up your walking routes so that your dog is able to encounter a greater variety of environments.

Pace Yourself

In the excitement of having a new dog, it can be tempting to rush out and take them to places like dog parks or outdoor gatherings of people. But while it’s good to take your dog to new places and let them meet new people and dogs, you don’t want to do too much at once. But if your dog is young enough that it’s still learning basic social skills, dog parks and crowded outdoor settings might be too much too soon and there’s a chance they could bite someone because they’re overwhelmed or anxious. Give them a chance to build those social skills at a more moderate pace.

Help Your Dog Get Used to Being Handled

Not all dogs naturally take to being touched or handled a lot. For young puppies, it’s important for them to be touched and held often so that they start to learn to not be afraid of other people. Making eye contact with the dog is also a good thing since it teaches them to not see it as a sign of aggression.  If you’re considering adopting an older dog that has been abused in the past, they might also need some help getting used to being touched in a positive way. In that case, it’s a good idea to talk to a vet or people who work at the shelter to get some advice about how to work with your dog so that they can learn that not everyone who wants to touch them is trying to hurt them.

Introduce New People in Moderation

Inviting people into your home helps dogs learn that people outside your family are not threats and that sounds like doorbells or knocks at the door are not necessarily bad. If friends, family, or repair workers will be coming into your home, it’s a good idea to put the dog in a different room while the person is entering your home, then let them out to briefly meet them. In some cases, it might be advisable to use a muzzle on the dog while it’s being introduced to someone new.

Behavior Reinforcement

Dogs learn how to act based on reactions to their behavior. Not only do things like treats show that good behavior is to be continued, dogs are also very receptive to emotion. If your dog deserves to be rewarded, make sure you do so with a tone of voice that indicates a positive attitude. Since dogs often bite gently during play, it’s important to make sure they understand when biting is inappropriate. For example, if you’re petting or playing with a dog and they bite a little too hard, saying ouch or firmly saying no can help them learn that it isn’t acceptable behavior.

When dog owners don’t live up to the responsibility of maintaining control over their dogs, it’s very easy for people to get hurt. If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog attack, don’t hesitate to talk to an experienced dog bite lawyer. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to get help from someone who has helped many Michigan dog bite victims just like you. Contact us today for help with your case.

Image: iStock / monkeybusinessimages

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