Socializing older dogs can sometimes be necessary. CoCo is a rescue dog and her history was largely unknown. She arrived very pregnant and stressed from long distance travel. The first priority was to get her socialized to the family environment she would have to deal with, which included adults children and cats. Because she was stressed, we took things slow for her after the puppies were born. She weened the pups at about 5 ½ weeks, so it was time to get her reintroduced to travel in an way that would reduce her association of travel with scary and stressful. We knew by this time she had a “reserved” but pleasant demeanor with other people, so a small trip to a building supply store was just the ticket.
Here are some tips for socializing older dogs:
Introduce the dog to people and other new things slowly, then slowly increase the pace of introduction while acting as if your dog’s behavior is no big deal. The idea is to create a calmer environment and, thus, a calmer dog. So when he streaks under your legs because the postman is at the door, go on about your business as usual. Calmly put the dog in time out. Make sure you deal with things you want your dog to be comfortable with by treating them as if they are no big deal.
When socializing an adult dog it is important to speak in positive reassuring terms in order to make each new experience a good. Praise and treats are your friend. Corrections do not work well because they increase the stress level.
Make the new situation seem “normal”. If you act calm, as if it is a non fearful environment, the dog will pick up those cues.