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Socializing your dog with other animals should only be done after your dog is old enough and has his Vet’s approval.  You don’t want your dog getting sick because he was socializing.

In my opinion, socializing your dog with other animals is just a bit more challenging than the other socialization exercises we’ve performed, simply because, with the exception of toddlers, you can expect how the other person/thing/place is going to react.  With other animals this doesn’t apply so much.

You want to make sure the animal you are going to socialize with is friendly and will be open to the interaction.  I would start with the small animal habitat at your local pet store.  It’s the easiest to control.  After all, the small animals are in cages, so there is no danger to your dog, and since you will be petting and giving your dog treats through the exercise you can count on your dog being relatively well-behaved as well.

Keep a leash on your dog at all times through the socialization.

In general (I have heard of no recorded cases) puppies are not aggressive towards other animals.  So after the small animal habitat, it’s safest to socialize your dog with puppies of varying breeds.

I know you think your new dog is an angel and would never do anything wrong, but unless he is also a puppy, be cautious.  You don’t want your dog to scare the other one either. 

Ask the breeder, rescue group, or former owners if the dog has ever bitten, played rough enough to break skin, or reacted poorly to other animals.

To Start, sit down on the floor away from the dog you want to socialize with.  Pet your dog and offer him treats.  You should be holding firmly to his leash.

If you feel like you just don’t have enough hands you may want to buy a treat bag to hold your treats for you and then keep it closed till you need it.  You have no idea how many times when I trained my own dogs they somehow (and they are darn crafty at it) got their mouths in my treat bag and ate at least a few good mouth full of treats before I could stop them.  They can move fast when they want to.

They next step is to politely ask if you can allow your dog to greet theirs.  If they say no, don’t be offended.  Their dog may not have been socialized properly, may be aggressive, or they may just want to get their dog food and get home after a long day.

On a leash lead your dog over to the unfamiliar dog.  They are probably going to want to sniff butts or ears, sometimes genitals.  I don’t know why it’s usually one of the three.  If you hear any growling, either dog looks scared or uncomfortable, bring your dog back to you, thank the person, and go a little ways away and as long as your dog wasn’t doing any growling to treat and praise them profusely.  You want to make sure these experiences are all positive ones.

Repeat this as often as humanely possible.

When I was training for a chain store I had clients who came in every single day to socialize their dog.  I applauded them, chatted a few minutes, gave them some of my treats for the exercise, even loaned them a treat bag for their visit.  People respond to positive reinforcement too.

When you find a super friendly dog they may want to play.  This is most often characterized by a dogs rear end going up in the air, tail wagging, and their front legs going flat on the ground.  It looks like a puppy imitation of a bow.  This is wonderful.  Allow them to sniff each other.  Chances are one dog will jump up on the others back.  This is not an aggressive posture in most instances, just the start of a play session.

If your pet store has an enclosed training area, ask the trainer if you could allow the dogs to play inside for a few minutes.  Keep the leash on your dog once you are inside, but allow the dogs to play.  Growling during rough play is not necessarily aggressive, but I recommend you separate them for about 30 seconds (grab the leash and have the other person grab theirs and lead the dogs a few feet apart to calm down).  After they are a little calmer, let them go back to playing.

This can also be very beneficial if you have a friend who has a dog who is friendly.  When they come visit have them bring their pup over too.  There are several benefits.  The most important to me is that you have a well socialized dog.  The most important to you is you have a dog who is tired out, happy, and probably won’t wake you for a 3 am potty break to sniff a tree and come back inside.

I really hate it when they do that.  It’s part of why, when I lived in an apartment building, I slept in a t-shirt and yoga pants.  Then I could just grab a jacket and leash and go.

After every play session reward both dogs (with permission from the other dog’s owner) with a treat and lots of love.

To play together the dogs do not need to be the same size.  My chihuahua plays with my 100 pound mix breed just fine.  And if you were wondering…  the chihuahua is in charge.

You also want to expose them to cats and kittens first by letting them just sniff each other.  When that is comfortable, go on to letting them get a little closer.  Unless you have a cat of your own, socializing your dog with a cat will be a bit of a challenge unless you have a friend who’s willing to help you out. If you do, just comment on this post and I’ll try to write something up for you

Finally allow your dog, if possible to be near horses.  10 feet is usually enough.  Just sit on the ground with him (the dog not the horse) love on him and give him treats. If you are someone who lives with horses, I’m afraid I don’t know enough about them to teach you to socialize them any further.  Contact local trainers, or comment here and I’ll see what I can do to learn about how to do it.

The idea is to teach them that other animals are ok.

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