Home » The Importance of Socializing Your Dog for Traveling (A How-To)

The Importance of Socializing Your Dog for Traveling (A How-To)

If you’re a pet parent or a soon-to-be pet parent, you’ve definitely heard the term “socializing your dog” before. Perhaps this is something you’ve done with your dog the moment you brought them home, and you’ve raised a confident and friendly best friend. If so, props to you! Today’s post is a quick guide on socializing your dog and why it’s crucial to have a well socialized dog when traveling.

What does it mean to socialize your dog?

Socializing your dog essentially means you’re teaching your dog proper social skills in new environments. You are getting them comfortable with new sights, sounds, textures, and experiences. This is why it’s recommended to start socializing your dog within 3-20 weeks of age if possible. “Puppies who miss out on these experiences may never learn to be comfortable around unfamiliar things, paving the way for anxiety, fear, and aggression later on in life.

What does a socialized dog look like?

socializing your dog

A well socialized dog will be friendly and confident around new people and dogs. This also means they are not overly excited or acting out, nor are they scared or anxious. They are curious and well-tempered.

Tips on how to socialize your dog:

  1. Handling: This is an easy one to start with, especially if your beloved is still a puppy. Touch and hold your dog in different ways. Look inside their ears, rub their paws, etc. Be gentle and make sure your pup is comfortable when doing this. If your pup is comfortable with their paws being touched at an early age, they are much more likely to be comfortable and less nervous to have their nails trimmed in the future (which is a major benefit).
  2. Walk a lot! Taking frequent walks with your dog is an amazing way to get them socialized. “From cars driving down the street to the mailman, the world becomes a little bit less scary once you’ve been around the block a time or two.Take different routes, allowing your buddy the chance to meet new friends and experience a wide variety of sights.”
  3. Prevent resource guarding: Resource guarding is an instinctual behavior for dogs. They want to guard what they believe belongs to them but this may cause unwanted aggressive behavior. You can start prevention by teaching your dog to be comfortable with people approaching them when they are eating. “Walk up to your puppy while she’s eating her food, drop an even tastier treat into her dish, and walk away. Repeat once or twice during each meal until your puppy is visibly excited about your approach. Then walk up, physically pick up her dish, put in a treat, give the dish back, and walk away.” You can also use positive reinforcement (with a pet or treat) so that you’re rewarding your dog when they are pleasant as you sit near them or touch them while they’re eating.
  4. Introduce them to people: You can start introducing your dog to people in a controlled environment by inviting friends or family over. Reward your dog when they are friendly and calm, not when they are overly excited or skittish.
  5. Introduce them to dogs: Just like introducing them to new people, getting your dog familiar with other dogs means they are friendly and easy to approach whenever you’re out and about. “There are lots of ways to do this: dog parks, play groups, play dates with friends’ dogs, and simple leash walks can all help accomplish this. Without this experience, dogs can lose their ability to know how to behave appropriately around other dogs.”
  6. Watch your attitude: Your dog will be calm and confident if you’re calm and confident. Don’t make a big deal out of skittish behavior and keep a calm demeanor so your dog will feel safe with you if they are feeling scared. Handle all social encounters with care, like ensuring “that people pet your dog where their hands can be seen, like on your dog’s chest or chin.
  7. Checklist of exposure: Make it a goal every week to get your dog familiar with…
  • Unfamiliar people
  • Unfamiliar dress (hoods, jackets, sunglasses, hats)
  • Body handling (ears, paws, tail, and so on)
  • Urban environments
  • Parks, bodies of water, woods, and beaches
  • Vehicles
  • Different types of flooring and ground surfaces
  • Common neighborhood objects like street signs, bicycles, strollers, skateboards, benches
  • Cats
  • Other dogs

For more detailed information, check out this article from Rover and this article from Animal Humane Society.

And remember to use positive reinforcement! Although an older dog will be more difficult to socialize, it is definitely possible with just some patience and care.

Importance of socializing your dog when traveling

socializing your dog

There is so much for you and your dog to explore when you’re traveling! If your dog feels comfortable and at ease in new environments, it will make traveling together so much more pleasant and stress-free. While you’re traveling, you will have to expect your dog to encounter other dogs and strangers, new foods, smells, and sounds. The last thing you want is to worry about aggressive behavior or anxiety. Start socializing your dog regularly prior to your trip together!

Is your dog socialized? What are some of your tips for socializing your pup? Let us know in the comments below! Don’t forget to sign up here to get the latest on dog-friendly travel news, doggy tips, and updates.

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