by Katherine Khoo January 26, 2023 5 min read

Most dog owners will agree that the best time to socialise their pup is when they are a puppy. Dogs are at their most receptive between three and twelve weeks of age. So, the earlier you can socialise your dog with other pups and humans, the better. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Perhaps you rescued your pup at an older age, and she never got the opportunity to be properly socialised before. Whatever the reason may be, you can still teach an old(er) dog a new trick, including socialisation. Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to socialise an adult dog. Here are some tips on how to socialize adult dogs.

How to Socialise an Older Dog

Daily walks are essential

Just taking your dog out to a public place and walking around will help him grow more comfortable with the world around him. Dog walks are great opportunities for your four-legged friend to see and meet other dogs and people. It exposes your dog to new sights, sounds, smells, humans, and other animals.

The initial encounter with another dog or human may not be pleasant especially if you have a very reactive dog. Do understand that it’s all part of your pooch’s learning process. If your dog barks or responds in a disruptive or undesirable manner do not yell at your dog. Yelling or shouting will only increase her excitement level and create a negative experience for them. They may associate that negative feeling with other dogs.

It is important that you remain calm. Maintain a calm but assertive energy and distract them with a correction, whether it’s a sound you’ve trained them with, a quick tug of the leash sideways, or a touch. Using a no-pull harness and leash like this FREEDOM No-Pull Harness & Leash For Dogs is recommended as it gives you better control, especially with larger, reactive dogs. When all else fails, you can always calmly walk away. There are always other socialisation opportunities, and you can try again when your dog has calmed down.

Though your dog needs to meet other dogs, never push your dog to interact with another dog. Some adult dogs are dog selective. They prefer their own space and may not want to greet (or be greeted by) every dog that they meet. If your pup does show interest in meeting with another dog, be sure to seek consent before allowing her to approach the other dog.  

How to Socialise an Older Dog

Monitor your emotion and attitude

It is important to keep in mind that our dogs sense our emotions. If you seem stressed out or nervous about an experience, so will our furry friends. They will pick up on your anxiousness. We must remain calm and confident.

Your pup will be nervous in her initial encounter with other dogs. She may not be on her best behaviour and may be lunging or barking at the other dog. Don’t play into your dog’s fearful or nervous reactions. Do not try to comfort her or give her a treat as a distraction. Always keep your body language and your emotions in check. Your dog will be calmer when you are calm.

Use a dog muzzle if necessary

A muzzle can be useful if your dog barks or growls excessively at other dogs, and the muzzle helps to prevent the danger of biting or attacking. If you are considering a muzzle, try this Artero Silicon Muzzle For Dogs that’s comfortable, adjustable, and easy to clean.

How to Socialise an Older Dog

Slowly work your way up to a dog run

A dog run is the epitome of socialization but taking your anxious dog to one right away isn’t always a good idea. Start with daily walks - walking your dog around the neighbourhood and monitoring her progress. Gradually advance closer to the perimeter of the dog run and let her watch the other dogs from a distance. Continue to monitor your dog’s posture and when she’s ready, work your way up to entering by approaching the fence and allowing your dog to sniff and interact with other dogs. Bring your dog into the dog run only when she’s well socialised and friendly towards other dogs.

Make it a positive experience by taking it slow and giving a treat when she behaves appropriately. Choose a treat that she adores and make it special. A high-value treat that she will only get when she behaves appropriately. We would suggest this ZIWI Peak Good Dog Rewards Lamb Dog Treats. High in protein and at only 5.6 calories per treat, this is the perfect treat for training.

If your dog responds aggressively or nervously, move away from the fence, and start over when she feels calm again. Don’t be discouraged if your pup doesn’t have a good first visit. With patience and plenty of practice, soon, she’ll be off-leash, playing with the other dogs at the dog run.  

How to Socialise an Older Dog

Invite friends over to your home

If you have friends who are willing to help you socialise with your dog, invite them over. Start by inviting one or two friends over and host them in a space where your dog can feel comfortable, such as your living room. Make sure your friends do not crowd or overwhelm your dog. Let your dog have her space and allow her to make the first move in approaching your guests. If your pup does not wander over to investigate, give your guests some dog treats or even a dog toy that they can toss from time to time to show your dog that they come in peace.

Keep the environment positive and relaxed to help your pup associate new people with good experiences. If necessary, use the ADAPTIL Calm Behaviour Training (For Anxiety) Diffuser Kit for Dogs to help keep your dog calm during the socialisation process.

Invite friends and their dogs on walks

Start by introducing your dog to one dog at a time. It is best to find a friend with a gentle, easy-going dog. Invite them on a walk with you and your dog. Allow a polite distance between the two dogs while they get accustomed to each other. If both dogs appear relaxed throughout the walk, allow them to sniff each other briefly. While the dogs interact with each other, stay alert but calm. Keep their leashes loose and each interaction short. If either dog appears to be tensing up, call them apart with relaxed voices, and walk them slightly apart until they are both calm and relaxed. Do not yell at the dogs. It will only excite them further which could lead to unwanted behaviours.  

How to Socialise an Older Dog

Dog socialisation is the process of making your pooch feel comfortable in the presence of other dogs and humans, in different environments and situations. Socialisation is all about experiences – getting your dog to understand the world around her. Understanding the world around her will certainly help her to be more relaxed and less likely to react to everything around her.

It is also important for us, dog parents to understand that when socializing an older dog, the key to success is repetition and consistency. Don’t get discouraged if your pooch doesn’t catch on right away. It takes time for older dogs to adapt to new situations and environments. It is easier to socialize puppies because everything is new to them. They haven’t yet developed any negative feelings toward certain people, places, or pets. While it can be more challenging to socialize older dogs, it’s not impossible and is still very achievable. With each new experience, be sure to create a calm, loving environment with lots of positive reinforcement and you will have a happy, confident, and well -behaved pup in no well-behaved.  








Katherine Khoo
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.

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