OK, we know dog is man's best friend and vice-versa. There's a reason why humans and dogs are forever besties. Let's face it--there's nothing like the bond between animals and humans.
However--your dog also needs some fellow furry friends (we mean ones with four paws, not your extra hairy Uncle Harry!) and learn ways to safely interact with other humans, not just their owners.
The recent lockdown made it tricky for pet-to-stranger-human and pet-to-pet interactions to occur, but now that we're getting back on track, make sure Fido maintains daily walks.
Just strolling around a public place, such as an outdoor shopping center, will help your dog feel braver and bolder to interact (safely) with others once they familiarize themselves with their surroundings outside the home.
Pups and playtime
"Socialization is a critical component of training a puppy and older dog," says Dr. Tori Given, a Kansas-based veterinarian and social media pet expert. "For puppies, I recommend socializing with other dogs, cats, and humans as soon as possible."
Dog parks are also obviously a hot spot for socialization, but "never take a puppy to a dog park until they are fully vaccinated for parvovirus, kennel cough, and rabies," stresses Dr. Given. "But you can socialize with pets at home with dogs that are up-to-date on their vaccines."
With dogs that are more shy or timid, introductions with an older and calmer dog can make the pet feel more comfortable. "Be sure to observe your dog’s body language and take things slow," says Dr. Given. "If the pet is very uncomfortable, don’t force anything -- start with 5 minutes of interaction and then work your way up."
According to Dr. Given, for older dogs, try to socialize them with pooches that match their energy level and are respectful of their personal space. "Use caution when using one toy to play with both pets; dogs will guard their toys and this could lead to a dog fight."
It can be a little more challenging to socialize older dogs--but age is just a number, right?
Consider giving your older dog a treat -- or just heap tons of praise on them -- when they safely greet another dog or human. Your pawsitive (ha) attitude will rub off on them.
Hire a pet sitter
If your pooch is alone for extended periods of time, it's nice to hire a dog walker to keep them active. But introducing a dog walker to your pet is also a great way for them to bond with someone that isn't YOU.
As your dog ages, it's also helpful to review and reinforce commands with them, especially the basics such as "sit." This will make it easier for them to "get back out there" when it comes to socialization. Basic commands may help calm them down and be more open to playtime from other dogs and pets.
Humans like to people-watch--and so do some pets! Just standing off to the side with your pup or older dog and having them observe other dog/human interactions can inspire them to be more social.
Class and sass
Consider enrolling your dog in a puppy or obedience class, and be sure your pooch isn't too aggressive by asking experts such as trainers or the vet for advice on ways to help your dog relax and open to interactions.
Good luck helping your dog find their (other) best friend for life – besides you, of course.