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Dog socialisation and visiting new places

In partnership with Dogs for Good

  • 2, Aug 2021
  • Read time: 7 mins

As a puppy or dog owner, you have likely heard about how important it is to socialise your canine companion. In the dog world, this is more than meeting other four-legged and two-legged friends. It's teaching your dog the skills they need to be confident in new places and how to greet others politely.

Two dogs greeting each other outside.

We've partnered with Dogs for Good to share our top tips for socialising your dog in new places, plus stress signals to look out for and how to teach good manners.

What are the benefits of taking my dog to new places?

Good socialisation and exposure to new places will give your dog confidence and can strengthen your bond. It gives you opportunities to help your dog learn how to behave in busier, public spaces. 

Guiding your dog through new experiences really benefits them. The benefits of your dog experiencing new places come from the exposure they get. You can teach them how to behave in different places and scenarios through exposure to:

  • Sensory experiences such as new noises, smells, and sights
  • Meeting other people
  • Meeting other dogs.

How do I socialise my dog in new places?

To successfully socialise your puppy or dog to new places, try these tips:

Keep new experiences positive

If they seem unsure, create more space from whatever is making your dog anxious so they can take it in from afar. Puppies and dogs will pick up on how you're feeling, so try and stay upbeat and positive throughout.

Make sure you have treats and toys to reward them and to help them make a positive association with new places. If visiting the new place has become too stressful for them, calmly end the visit, and try again another time.

Build up visits to new places

To set your dog up for success when visiting new places, try to start in quieter locations. For example, before visiting a busy high street, visit a local store and walk by it a few times.

If your new place involves a car journey, we’ve got a handy guide that explains how to travel safely with your dog.

Don't visit too many new places in one day

Going to lots of new places in one day can be overwhelming for your dog. Try a few places that you'd like them to get comfortable visiting and go often. Once they're happier in these areas, you can start to add more places to your list.

Make sure their vaccinations are up to date

Vaccinations are important to protect your dog against serious infectious diseases. These are particularly important for puppies as their immune systems aren't strong enough at a young age.

Watch when they play with other dogs

If you meet another dog when exploring a new place, try and make it a positive experience. Check that your dog is ok to say hello and try not to let any play get too boisterous.

What should I take with me when I'm taking my dog somewhere new?

Before exploring a new place, pack your dog a bag of goodies to help keep them happy and comforted:

  • Bottle of fresh water and a bowl to stay hydrated
  • Dog bed, blanket, or towel to settle on
  • Long lasting chews to help settle them
  • Treats and toys to create plenty of positive associations
  • Poo bags to clean up after them
  • Long line or extendable lead if you're not recall ready.

Understanding dog body language and stress signals

Did you know that dogs are always communicating with us? They can communicate happy, playful, anxious, and alert feelings through body language alone.

An infographic that explains four body languages dogs show us - anxious, playful, alert and happy.

Anxious

A worried or anxious dog will show you how they're feeling with their posture and subtle body changes:

  • Tail tucked
  • Raised hackles on their neck
  • Ears pulled back
  • Licking their lips

Alert

An alert dog will become very fixated on whatever is making them feel concerned. They may display other stiff body movements like:

  • A high tail
  • Raised hackles on their neck
  • Eyes wide and fixated
  • A stiff posture

Playful

If your dog is feeling playful, they'll show they want to play through:

  • Play bows
  • Bouncy moves
  • A wagging tail
  • Relaxed facial expressions

Happy

A dog who is happy will show you by being relaxed:

  • Relaxed body
  • Relaxed facial expressions
  • Invites interactions
  • Leans on you when petted.

What are common problems that I might face when my dog is experiencing something for the first time?

Your dog may become fearful and stressed when experiencing a new environment. They might:

  • Bark
  • Crouch
  • Back away
  • Turn away
  • Become fixated

If you spot any of these reactions, create some space from the object or place that is causing them to feel anxious. Have patience, use treats, and never force them forward.

After a while, they may start to become more comfortable. But if they don't, it's ok to leave and try again another day.

What are the benefits of training my dog in different environments?

To train your dog, teach them new commands in a familiar, low distraction, and safe environment. Once they've nailed their new commands, you can try it in different places. This will teach your dog to listen to you and stay focused in distracting places.

Different commands you can try in new places could be:

  • Relaxed loose lead walking
  • Good sit
  • Settle
  • Polite greeting behaviour.

Can I socialise an older dog?

While advice will tell you the sooner the better when it comes to socialisation, older dogs may need socialisation training too. If you have a rescue or a dog struggling to adjust after lockdowns, here's what Vicky, the Dog Supply Manager at Dogs for Good suggests:

“While we always associate socialising with younger dogs, you can still follow the same processes for an older dog. Take it gradually (especially if you don’t know the history of the dog) and really keep an eye on their body language to see how they are coping with each experience.

“Don’t try and continue if your dog is finding it stressful. It’s far better to stop what you’re doing than make your dog more anxious or fearful. Remember, it might take several months and lots of positive reinforcement before your dog is comfortable doing something. Be patient, don’t rush and if you need extra support, it’s worth considering some 121 sessions with a dog behaviourist so they can offer you some advice.”

Should I leave my dog at home?

Teaching your dog to be happy when left at home is just as important as teaching them to be confident in new places. Finding a balance between taking them with you for socialisation and leaving them at home is key.

If they don't learn to be comfortable without you there, they may get separation anxiety. It's important that you know the signs and causes of separation anxiety in dogs, to try and prevent it.

Dog insurance for the unexpected

Dog insurance is there for your dog in case they get in an accident or becomes unwell. Choose from our 4 cover levels to find the right cover for your puppy or dog.

Take a look at our dog insurance and get a quote today

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