AHS trainers hear this question frequently, for understandable reasons. Adopters want to give their dogs the fullest life possible, and many worry that their dog will “miss out” if they are not provided ample play opportunities. The reality, though, is that adult dogs can lead a full life even without dog parks or off-leash play. This article is intended to shed light on specific considerations for socializing adult dogs.
First things first: socializing an adult dog looks very different than socializing a puppy. Puppies in their sensitive period (between 3 and 20 weeks) are generally accepting of new people, places and dogs, so teaching them to feel comfortable around them is relatively easy. Most puppy owners simply expose them to new things every day, feeding wonderful treats at the same time, to make each interaction a happy one. This way, the puppy is likely to retain those happy impressions even after the sensitive period of socialization ends, around 4-5 months. Continued exposure to new stimuli throughout the first year can keep the process rolling along smoothly.