The Importance of Continuing to Socialize Your Dog

Two pet care specialists guiding a dog through a socialization exercise, emphasizing the importance of continuing to socialize your dog for their overall well-being.
Your pup may have loved people when you first brought her home, she went places, got lots of cookies, and loved experiencing new things. So, why in adulthood is she now cowering, hesitant or slow to warm up? We put so much importance on those early experiences, and they are crucial, but there’s an equally important step many of us miss. That being, socialization never really ends! Socialization nurtures confidence, and confidence is a skill.

The Importance of Continuous Socialization

Imagine doing a group presentation after only doing them in highschool. How successful would you be, suddenly expected to present after going years without practice? Some may have the natural trait of speaking in front of others, but for most of us this could be nerve wracking! Now think how you would do if public speaking was something you did once a week, you’re much more likely to be comfortable with the experience because it is familiar! The same type of thinking can be easily applied to our furry friends. There will always be the ones with natural confidence ready to take on everything novel in the word, for them it’s a trait but for the rest it is a skill. How do we keep skills strong? Practice!!

Socialization as a Lifelong Journey

As your dog ages, their bodies go through many changes, not just physically, but physiologically, hormonally and mentally as well. In many dogs we do not consider them socially mature until 1-2 years of age. Your dog may look grown, but their brain is still very much puppy. Their bodies continue to change the older they get, and due to this inevitable progression it’s our duty as dog owners to help them remain confident in life experiences. It’s incredibly important to help your dog stay up to date on all the information the world has to offer them. Give them time to “study” for the surprise visitor, or that exuberant lab you may pass on a walk.

How to Help Your Dog Study for Life

How do we help them study for life? It’s really simple, do things with your dog! Look at your pups routine, is it the same day in and day out? Start taking them with you to pick up dog food, go on nature walks, take them to dog friendly places, walk around the city, participate in group training classes, or supervised play groups with trusted dogs. The more routine your adventures are, and the more variety you can add to them will allow your dog to practice just being a good dog! Socializing isn’t forcing them to interact with strangers and new dogs. Look at it more like existing calmly in their presence. My favorite activity to do with my dogs, that we still do even after 10 years, is to sit at a park and just observe. We watch the people go by, they air scent as we spot a dog in the distance, and occasionally I toss them a treat while they are relaxing. My dogs have the freedom to make choices, and I am confident in their ability to make great choices thanks to the variety of adventures we do.

The Caution of Over-Socialization

Now I also want to caution about overly socializing, too much of anything can be too much! If your dog is used to the same walking path and lazy afternoon on the couch slowly incorporate change into their life. A tired dog is a good dog, an over tired dog can be a grouch! The goal with this is not to exhaust them. We want them to look forward to their next outing, it shouldn’t feel like a chore for either pup or person. I’d recommend learning how to read your dog’s body language to figure out how well they are taking to the changes in their life. This will also help you to learn if they are actually enjoying an interaction, tolerating it or feeling uncomfortable.

The Essential Skill of Taking on the World

Being able to take on the world is arguably the most important skill any dog can have. If you only have time to work on one thing with your dog, I’d drop “sit” and work on everyone having fun living life. Raising a dog is a commitment for the entire time they are on this earth, it doesn’t end after the puppy phase. Those early experiences only help to form the building blocks to a confident adult. While it is true that some of the most important socialization happens when our canines are still young, we can’t stop there! If you’re unsure where to start, or feeling overwhelmed, a group class or private training session can help you create the best plan for your pup.


While early experiences are important, socialization should continue throughout a dog’s life! If you’re unsure where to start or feeling overwhelmed, consider joining a group class or seeking private training sessions to create the best socialization plan for your pup.

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Mandy Beaudoin

I am a CPDT-ka certified trainer. Kindness is in my DNA! I strongly believe in gentle, long term, and effective learning. The training process is about building a strong foundation and relationship with your animal companion. It should be fun for everyone involved!

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