How to Socialize Your Dog

Reprinted with permission from

Socializing your dog is one of the most important aspects of your dog’s training

Socialization is an often talked about and mostly misunderstood topic amongst dog owners and even dog trainers.  Many schools and trainers even offer socialization classes that are all but useless and actually teach bad habits.  Many feel that it is taking your dog out to play with other dogs.  That can certainly be part of it – but if that is the extent of socializing your dog – you are missing out on a lot of opportunities to help your dog grow and develop.

Real socialization means teaching your dog that the world it lives in contains many things and it is a safe and positive place.
Miriam Webster defines Socialization as
Simple Definition of socialize

  • : to talk to and do things with other people in a friendly way
Full Definition of socialize
  1. 1:  to make socialespecially  :  to fit or train for a social environment
The full definition should be your goal with your dog.  Teaching your dog to fit in to the world around it.

How to socialize your dog

To socialize your dog means to expose it to the world around it. In other words – “see/hear/touch/smell & explore this – it is part of our environment and now let’s move on.  It’s no big deal.

Lincoln – the large black and tan mix was very dog aggressive prior to his training. Rigorous obedience and very careful and calculated socialization transformed him into a new dog. See his video here.

I want my dog to be neutral or positive to most things – neutral is my overall preference.
I don’t want my dog to become overstimulated every time she sees another person, dog, cat squirrel or car/bis/bike etc …
if my dog is neutral to these things – that means she feels comfortable and accepts everything around her as part of her “normal”. Neutral also means that it is easier for her to focus on me than if she is overly stimulated by them.

Puppies like children need to feel comfortable in the world they live in

Think of how we expose our kids to the world around them: We bring them places with us – careful to not force them into situations they are not equipped to deal with. Gradually we introduce little stressors when the timing is right and appropriate for that individual child.

The goal should be to have a well balanced dog

We don’t force them to play with or say hi to or hug every person they see.  We want to build a sense of well being and confidence as well as healthy interaction and manners.  Balance is the key and too many trainers and people socialize their dogs in a way that teaches the dog bad habits such as getting overexcited when they see other dogs or people. Often they will even force dogs into situations they should not be in in an effort to “make them more social” and this leads to higher levels of aggression and other problem behaviours.
Helping a dog overcome a fear of stairs – video

Pro Dog Training Tip #1

When socializing my dogs I make sure to be the centre of focus and fun. In other words – we go out and explore and as much fun as they have meeting people and dogs and exploring the environment – the most fun they have is with me.  This really helps in training – because they want to be with me more than anywhere else.

Bonus Pro Dog Training Tip #2

If your dog is particularly stressed in a specific setting or environment – make a point of taking it there and feeding your dog there for several days.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly this helps normalize the environment in your dog’s mind.  Some dogs make skip a meal or two but most will get right into it once they get past the initial hump.  An added bonus is that if you plan on travelling with your dog it is great that they learn to it wherever you off them a meal.  My dogs have eaten in the car/van/truck, in a parking lot, even on the side of a highway or parked at a gas station while on road trips.

Is Your Dog's Training Distraction Proof?

Is your dog’s training distraction proof?
Reprinted with express permission by MontrealDogTrainer on September 30, 2016 in General
Marlo staying on his place despite an other dog’s efforts to get him to run and play. Can your dog focus under distraction?

Teaching a dog to work even when distracted is a huge part of my training programs.

If you aren’t training your dog to focus on you and be reliable under distraction – your dog is not going to be able to listen to you when you need it most.


Fully off leash trained

Here we see a young puppy – Marlo – who is an  11 month old Husky showing how well he functions under distraction – by staying on his place while another dog does her best to get him to come and play with her.  This is Marlo’s 5th lesson and he is doing great. His owner Elie is very pleased as you can see by the grin on his face as looks on his dog with pride.  The gentleman in the ball cap with the female asked if they can approach us and of course we obliged since it was a great test for Marlo.





A well trained dog is a thing of beauty

There is a lady walking her 2 small dogs  by in the background as well who has stopped to admire Marlo and was even taking pictures of him.  Marlo’s owner tells me he regularly has people stop and ask about his dog and comment on how well behaved he is.

Springtime equals distraction training

Cow Clara Hughes Dog Training
My dog Cow a.k.a. Clara Hughes doing her “Put Em Up’ Command on a NYPD van in the middle of the financial distratict in Manhattan, NYC. You need a high level of trust in your dog’s abilities to obey and focus to remove a leash and know they’ll perform under such circumstances.

It looks like we are enjoying an early spring or at least a preview of what is to come.With springtime come distractions that were dormant durting our long sleepy winters. More poeople and dogs are out. Squirrels. More scents to explore.Many people find thir dogs coming to life this time of year and it is a great opportunity to work on your dog’s distraction training.Here are some ideas for you to help you improve your dog’s ability to focus under distraction:

Dog Training with Distractions - Pro Tip:

Find a location that allows you to work with your dog at a distance from a distraction. It could be a dog park or an area where people walk their dogs - you know your dog best - whatever is a distracting environment for your dog will work for our purposes.Pick an excercise that your dog knows well - it could be as simple as a sit stay or heel - it doesnt even matter what the excercise is - but make sure t is simthing your dog is familiar with so that she is comfrtable in her work - becasue distractions add pressure to thew work.Ask your dog to perform and encourage with praise and treats or play. Release - and rewards your dog.Repeat the excercise.

How to make distraction training easier for your dog

If your dog is having a hard time - work further away from the distractions and gradually increase the proximity when your dog is performing with ease. Think of the proximity to distractions like a volume dial - the closer you get to them - they louder they are to your dog.One last tip - don’t rush this training. if I see one very common mistake - it is the lack of time taken to develop a skill before trying to rush the dog to perform at what the owner feels should be the dog’s level of difficulty. It is better to prgress slowly and inside the dog;s comfort zone - building skills and confidence as well as trust in the training and the handler. One hand washes the other with this aproach and it not only builds obedience but also helps build trust and confidnce.

Cow off leash demonstrating great focus in Manhattan NYC practicing her “Get in Line” with tons of traffic and lots of people walking around.