Written by Maureen Patin, CPDT-KA, www.whatagreatdog.com

We recently adopted a very sweet older dog from the local animal shelter.  She does great with people, but she doesn’t get along with other dogs.  What socialization tips do you have?

This can be a tricky situation. Dogs that are socialized with other dogs during early puppyhood, typically grow into social dogs who enjoy meeting other dogs. If a dog was not given an opportunity to learn those important social skills as a pup, it is difficult to make up for this later in life.

Most adult dogs with poor social skills can learn to tolerate the presence of other dogs. They may never become dogs that enjoy going to the dog park or interacting with strange dogs. But, with the right behavior modification techniques, they can learn to enjoy training classes, walks in the park and other activities that have strange dogs nearby.

A group class geared toward reactive dogs is the best way to help a dog with this issue. These classes typically have very few students (four or less) and are structured to keep plenty of space between the dogs. At our training facility, What a Great Dog! Training Center, in Frisco, Texas, we also set up “dog blinds” that limit each dog’s line of sight to the other dogs. The dogs are rewarded heavily for remaining calm in the presence of other dogs at a distance. In very small increments, the dogs are given increasing exposure to the other dogs.

If you are unable to find such a program in your area, I recommend recreating it by taking your dog to a location where other dogs are present. But, most importantly, you must find a distance that your dog can tolerate without showing signs of stress. The dog should be rewarded for being calm and responding to simple commands. If your dog shows signs of stress by barking, whining or stress panting, she needs more distance. With success, you can move progressively closer to the other dogs. Take your time. Move closer in small increments and leave on a good note. Plan on doing regular sessions over the course of several weeks. Avoid situations that put your dog in a situation that she can’t handle. Instead, build her confidence by creating scenarios that she can be successful with.

Maureen Patin, CPDT-KA, www.whatagreatdog.com

Maureen Patin, CPDT-KA is the owner and Head Trainer of What a Great Dog! Training Center in Frisco, Texas. Maureen earned her certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and is an AKC approved Canine Good Citizen® Evaluator. She has completed hundreds of hours of education in canine behavior modification. Maureen is a lifelong dog enthusiast and has been a full-time, professional trainer since 2007. Maureen competes with her own dogs in AKC Rally, Agility and Obedience. What a Great Dog! Training Center is the largest indoor training facility in Texas. They offer private instruction and group classes in pet manners, agility, obedience and rally.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect in any way those of Cloud Star Corporation.