Time magazine claims that “Corona killed the handshake”. Lucky for us, dogs can’t read. They would be horrified to know that humans no longer feel comfortable greeting each other – after all, their greetings are a lot more intimate (you want to put your nose where?).
Dog socialization is an important part of a well rounded pet. During the covid pandemic, many dogs (and people!) lost some of their social skills. We can definitely help the dogs…not sure about helping humans.
If your dog is lacking in manners or just anxious with other critters, we do not actually recommend that you start with daycare. Leaving your unsure or nervous dog with 15-40 other dogs is like diving into the deep end before you learn to swim. Don’t immediately go to the dog park, either!!
Start in the metaphorical shallow end with a parallel walk with another dog. Once your dog can ignore its new friend on a walk, you can add more stressors – more dogs, a new walk route, etc. Only after your dog is able to handle this situation with calm and tolerance should you escalate to off leash critters.
Your dog will probably find learning to socialize to be stressful – as long as you manage it properly, that’s ok. We all have to manage stress in our lives. When you were in high school, that was stressful. Then you went to college, got a real job and a mortgage and a partner and maybe a gaggle of kids – and each of those changes were more stressful than the last! Just like humans, dogs have to learn to manage their stress. By shielding your dog from every stressful situation, you are feeding into and building their anxiety.
Expose your dog to new situations so that they learn to manage stress. This can be by taking them to Agway, Tractor Supply, Petco, Home Depot or on a parallel walk with a friend’s dog. DO NOT allow your nervous dog to be harassed or bothered by dogs or people. It is your job to set your dog up for success by protecting them in these situations – if the purpose of your outing is to expose your nervous dog, do not add any additional stressors by allowing them to be pet by strangers! “No” is a complete sentence, and you are allowed to tell people that they can not pet your dog. Feel free to say “sorry, we are training” if “no” feels too harsh.
Check out this article for more on the how, when and why’s of dog socialization.