Socializing with Other Animals

Even if your dog is your only pet, he’ll encounter a variety of other animals in his life — some routinely, like other dogs, cats, and the local wildlife; and some rarely, if ever, like livestock. Taking the time to expose your dog at an early age to a variety of animals of all sizes and shapes will greatly improve the chances of him accepting the presence of even the “strangest” animal as nothing to worry about later in life. Whether your dog will be living with other pets or you just have the occasional encounter with the neighborhood fauna, you want your dog to be under control and unafraid.

Safe Interspecies Interaction

Your primary objective in socializing your dog with your other pets is keeping all parties safe and comfortable in each other’s presence. Keep in mind that dogs are predators, and most other household pets could easily be considered prey. To keep everybody safe, use a combination of management, training, and supervised socialization. It may be helpful to have pets first smell, then see each other from behind a barrier — maybe even from a distance at first — making sure that good things like praise, petting, and special treats are given for calm, nonreactive behavior. Dogs should be prevented from chasing housemates, but the housemates should also be prevented from panicking and running away, inciting the dog’s chase instinct. Since scent is such a strong means of information exchange for animals, as mentioned previously, switching their bedding is often helpful during the socialization process. With time, and by building on success, most animals can learn to at least tolerate each other, if not live in total harmony.

The Great Outdoors

Socializing your dog to animals outside your home is something that needs to be done early and often if you expect her to accept those animals as nonthreatening later. If she will spend time around horses, sheep, chickens, or any other livestock, it is imperative that she be introduced to them as early as possible — before 12 weeks is best. She should be kept leashed for safety until she learns some self-control around these animals. Animals that your dog might see, but won’t be allowed to interact with, like deer, squirrels, and neighborhood cats, should be dealt with calmly. Teach her to give you eye contact when you encounter such attractive nuisances. The trick is to get her attention when she first notices the “prey” rather than when the chase is on. This will both increase your chance of success and will diffuse the fear of the animal your dog wants to chase. Animals that aren’t running away aren’t as much fun to chase.

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