It’s always hard to see your cute and, once-innocent, fur ball turn into a growly, hissy monster in front of strangers and their pets. We want our pets to bring their best paw forward. However, without proper socialization skills, our sweethearts may not remain so sweet once out in unfamiliar territory. Below, we discuss the importance of pet socialization and ways that we can help integrate our animals into the real world!
Why Do I Need to Socialize my Pet?
According to the “American Kennel Club”, the idea behind socialization is to present your pet with as many new stimuli as possible, in a positive way. Without proper socialization with other humans, animals, and even wheels, your pup may become fearful and/or aggressive towards a running child, a squirrel, or even a biker.
PetMD, says that extreme fearfulness from lack of socialization, can cause your pup severe anxiety and a general distress towards anything they have not yet experienced. To some, this may even include leaves blowing in the wind!
As mentioned above, aggression can also be a characteristic of an un-socialized dog, as they tend to overcompensate their fear with acting defensively.
Grooming sensitivities are also common fears an un-socialized dog may experience.For example, a pooch that is not used to being combed, getting their nails clipped, or having their teeth brushed, makes it hard for pet owners and groomers to pamper your kiddos! It is not uncommon to see pet parents take their pups to the vet for these basic necessities.
Fear of humans is also another factor. PetMD says, dogs that are not accustomed to meeting—or being around unfamiliar people—may develop a fear and weariness of strangers. It’s important to socialize your dog with as many different types of people, so they know not to be nervous around children, people wearing hats, sunglasses, etc.
Symptoms of un-socialized cats are a bit similar to un-socialized dogs and the topic remains just as important. As un-socialized cats are usually indoor felines, it is essential to get your kitty used to everything within their environment in order to eliminate behaviors such as retreating in fear, or acting aggressively towards unfamiliarity’s. Scratching strangers and hissing, are ways cats may overcompensate their fear.
Furthermore, according to ASPCA, certain behavioral issues such as destructive scratching of furniture and refusing to use the litter box, are also signs that your cat is overcompensating their anxiety by marking their territory to feel more secure.
Ways to Help
As reported by the “American Kennel Club”, you can socialize your dog by:
- Introducing them to new sights, sounds, and smells – Take walks in many different environments and even terrain. Get your pooch to walk on bridges, go up steps without backings, and walk on sand! Getting out and about with your pup, will also help strengthen your relationship and trust with one another.
- Making the experience a positive one – treats are always a great tool to make an unsettling experience more enjoyable. Praise is always recommended to get more desired behaviors than unwanted ones.
- Involve family members – the more people in your family involved, the better. This will let your pooch know, “he might experience something new, no matter who he’s with”. Remember, it’s easier on you, and especially your dog, to know he can adapt to the majority of situations.
- Taking “baby steps” – don’t make any socialization experience an overwhelming one. If you want your pup to get used to strangers, invite a friend over first, instead of dragging him to a block party.
- Get him out and about – get him used to stimuli, play dates, training classes, and dog parks! The more exposure your dog has to unfamiliar things, the more at ease your dog will be in different situations.
According to ASPCA, it is easier to socialize your cat when she has another feline sibling. Further, it’s best to socialize her between 2-14 weeks old, as this is the period where they are most susceptible to new experiences. However, older cats can still be socialized with lots of patience from owner and may require a bit more time. You can socialize your cat by:
- Starting slowly – allow your cat to set the pace. No one likes being overwhelmed and if a cat is in distress, aggressive behavior may be more likely.
- Touch and play with her – just as Catster.com says, it’s important to develop a relationship with your cat, so that she trusts your judgment when putting her in a new situation. Get her used to you touching her and picking her up, by speaking to her calmly as you move your hand from her head to the rest of the body. A cat that is comfortable getting touched, is a “good kitty” when it comes to vet visits, claw trimmings, and more.
- Introduce your feline to strangers and other pets – visit ASPCA for more information on how to properly introduce your kitty to other people and future pets!
As you can see, pet socialization is very important. As it is very hard to control a fearful and aggressive dog, it is just as hard to form a positive relationship with a retreating cat! The ability to adapt to unfamiliar situations is a crucial factor for your babies to enjoy their environments in a calm and confident manner! Have other suggestions on how to socialize your pet? Comment below!