My new dog Pierson is nothing like my dog Maya when it comes to sociability. As a Labrador Retriever, Maya loves EVERYBODY. And as a dog breed with a gun dog heritage, loud noises don’t faze her. Pierson, my Border Collie/Aussie mix is a different story. After Pierson’s first week in his new home, it became obvious that I was going to have to work on socializing my new dog.
Issues Thus Far
Pierson does not like loud noises or fast movements. He has gotten more comfortable when this occurs in our home, but he completely freaks out when it happens outside our home. And he is scared of our roommates. Even though he sees them every day and they give him treats, he sometimes gets inexplicably scared and barks at them. During walks, I am pulled in one direction by Maya trying to greet people passing by while Pierson is pulling the other direction trying to get away. Pierson is very wary of visiting guests and even growled at someone who brought their little baby. Pierson will not go inside public places like the pet store without much coaxing. In the beginning, I had to pick him up and carry him in. At one of the shops we visited, Pierson barked at a 12 year old girl.
Introducing My Dog to Loud Noises
While socializing my new dog, he is exposed to all sorts of outside noises when we go for our walks. No lawnmowers yet since it is winter, but bicycles, cars, motorcycles, and kids playing. Whenever a noise startles him, I keep walking as if nothing is wrong. Inside, he has been introduced to the vacuum, kitchen sounds, and tv sounds. Pierson no longer has any problem with kitchen noises or the tv. He has learned noises in the kitchen are a good thing since we sometimes drop food on the floor or get his treats from there. He still doesn’t like the vacuum cleaner but he doesn’t run and hide like he did the first time. To get him used to this sound, I give him a bone to chew on while I vacuum. He only gets the bone at that time. I am hoping he will learn to associate the vacuum with food like he does for the kitchen noises.
Introducing My Dog to People
We occasionally have visitors to our home. I tell them not to try to pet Pierson until after he has had a chance to sniff them over on his own. In fact, they should completely ignore him for the first few minutes. Don’t look him in the eyes for more than a second. If when we go out in public and someone asks to pet him, I tell them they have to wait until he sniffs them. And I suggest that it is probably easier to try to scratch him on his chest than to pet him on the head.
Taking My Dog to New Places
Socializing my new dog in winter is a bit more difficult in winter. We haven’t gone to the park yet, and even if we did it is not likely that there will be many people there anyway. So I have to be a bit more creative. We have been to Petco, Pawsh Wash, and a pet consignment shop called The Dog House. On the first and second visits, I had to carry him in. But now he is beginning to trust me and tries to stay close to my side whenever we go in. Whenever he first goes into a building, I stop and let him look and sniff around (while on a leash of course). I let him lead the way so that he can see there is nothing to be afraid of. Once his walk seems a bit more relaxed, I take him to where I want to go.
Getting My Dog Used to the Car
I don’t have much to say on this one because Pierson has adapted to the car quite well. He is even used to his dog car harness, although I have to be careful that he doesn’t try to chew it. Even if Pierson is scared of the places we go, he is not frightened of the car. He does sometimes get car sick, but he will jump into the car like it is the place to be. If I am going to any place with a drive-though, like the bank or fast food place, I try to take Pierson with me so that he gets even more used to it.
Other Tips for Socializing My New Dog
As with dealing with Pierson’s separation anxiety (see previous post), I do not make a big deal out of anything. If he is scared of something, I act like there is nothing wrong. I don’t sooth him or act in any way like I am trying to protect him. If there is something or someone that I think would present a hazard, such as a leash-aggressive dog, I will walk Pierson away from it/them without a fuss.
I once made the mistake of introducing Pierson to too much at one time. There was an event with lots of people and other dogs that I took him to. He was terribly frightened and so we had to leave after a short time. I learned that while socializing my new dog, I had to take it slow. I don’t want to overwhelm Pierson. I want to do a little at a time to build his confidence.
If you have any other tips for socializing my new dog, please feel free to leave a comment. Pierson is already a great dog, but it would be nice if I could take him places and share him with others without stressing him out.