How To Socialize a Rescue Dog – Step By Step

Socializing your dog properly

Let’s talk about how to socialize a rescue now.

We talked before about how important it is to socialize a puppy. A well-socialized dog is much more secure, confident, and usually better behaved.

Socializing Rescue Dogs

If you socialize your rescue dog properly, they’re going to be less territorial than other dogs.

They’re less likely to be afraid of other dogs and other people as well, great things if you take your dog on walks.

Though it’s best to start socializing dogs when they are a puppy, older rescue dogs can be socialized, too.

Signs of Poorly Socialized Dog

puppy cowering under dresser

There are signs you can look for in a poorly socialized dog. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Flinching at sudden movements
  • Showing fear at loud sounds like clapping your hands
  • Cowering
  • Cowering and peeing as if scared
  • Continuous barking
  • Backing away
  • Hiding under furniture
  • Showing Aggression towards people or other animals

Socializing a rescue from the moment you bring them home

Family kneeling down in yard with dog

When it comes to rescues, the process of socializing can be a little more complicated than socializing a dog that is not a rescue.

Dogs who go through the rescue process often have trauma in their past that you may not be aware of. It is even more important to socialize a rescue from the moment you bring them home.

You need to help them feel secure in their new environment.

You need them to understand their place, especially if you have other dogs.

Depending on your new dog’s situation at the shelter or rescue organization, they may be traumatized.

Animals in shelters often feel defeated.  And they may feel insecure because their original family left them. If they spent a long time in the shelter, they may not trust that they will get to stay.

These things may make it a little more difficult to socialize your rescue dog. But it can be done!

Steps to socializing a rescue

Steps to socializing a rescue

First, you want to spend some time with them at the shelter. Let them get to know you.

When you bring them home, don’t take them directly into the house. Ask any family members to come outside to meet the new furry family member.

If you have other dogs, you want to bring them out on a leash and let them meet the new dog in the front yard or on neutral territory.

In fact, if possible have other family members play and run your dogs to wear them out before you bring the new dog home. A tired dog is generally a calm dog.

Then when you bring the new dog home, they are more likely to be calm and greet the new addition with curiosity instead of fear.

Once everyone is calm, you can begin to move this party indoors.

Socializing your new dog with your existing dogs

How to Socialize a Rescue Dog with other Dogs

Have all of the humans go into the house first, other than one person with the new rescue dog, and one person with the existing family dogs.

Then you want the existing family of dogs to go into the house.

Once everyone is in, you can bring in the new furry family member.

What you’ve just done is establish hierarchy. Dogs are very pack oriented. They need to know where they stand in the hierarchy.

By sending the humans into the house first, you’re showing that the two-legged family members are the top of the chain.

The existing dogs going into the house next lets them know that it is still their territory.

It also tells the new dog that it is sharing the territory. And since then the dog is coming into the house last, it knows its place in the pack.

If everyone is calm in the house, you can start letting everyone off their leashes.

Keep the new rescue dog on their leash longer, just in case something goes wrong and you need to pull them out.

Once you’re sure that new fights are going to start, you can let that dog off its leash too.

How to Socialize My Dog with Strangers

Socializing your dog with people and animals of all shapes and sizes

It’s also important to socialize your dog with people and animals of all shapes and sizes.

Some dogs react poorly to children, and it may be that they’ve never really interacted with them. Other dogs do not like when a man has facial hair, or when people wear glasses.Usually, this comes from not having seen these things before. So they’re frightened.

First, you want to take things slow. Start by introducing your dog to people in the dog’s home environment. Ask a friend who has not met your dog to stop by and help. By doing this, the dog is already comfortable and in a territory that they are familiar with.

Once you have invited your friend in the house, show your dog that you are comfortable with that person by having a positive attitude.

Give your friend some treats to offer your dog as a reward for good behavior during the visit and give your dog praise for a job well done.

How to Introduce an Aggressive Dog to a New Person

Dog on leash showing aggression towards person

Dogs can be aggressive for several reasons. Some dogs are scared of people while others are just trying to defend their territory.

Introducing and aggressive dog can be a bit tricky, but it is doable.

Start in a controlled environment like your yard. As a friend to stop by and help. For this you will want your dog on a leash with a secured collar that will not slip over their head.

Ask your friend to walk past the dog at a safe distance. If your dog shows aggression, redirect the dog by bumping it with your leg or tapping it on it’s side. You are basically telling your dog to leave it.

Repeat this until your dog ignores your friend walking by. Praise and reward your dog.

This can also be done inside a home if your dog can be kept at a safe distance from your friend until the dog no longer shows aggression.

What to do if a dog fight starts?

What to do if a dog fight starts?

If a fight does start, do not yell.

That will just escalate the problem. Your existing dogs will think that the new dog is attacking you and will move to protect you.

The new dog, who is already feeling insecure, is more likely lash out if you yell, too.

Instead, use your command voice to tell them all “Away!”  You can also clap your hands very hard, use a whistle, or some other loud, sharp noise.

The point is to interrupt the fight and distracted the dogs.

This will get their attention back on you, and off of whatever argument they were in the middle of.

For more information on what to do if dogs are fighting, check out our post.

Now, assuming that this first meet up goes well, you just need to keep an eye on things.

Supervise the dogs when they’re in the same room together for the first couple weeks.

You want to be sure to lavish praise on everybody when they’re behaving, play with all of your dogs more.

This goes back to the tired dogs being calm dogs.

Tired dogs are calm dogs

Tired dogs are calm dogs

Not only does paying attention to them all let your dogs know that you still love them just as much as before and reduce jealousy, it also wears them out in a positive way so that they’re less likely to fight.

You may even want to introduce a new, high-value treat that all of the dogs will enjoy.

This will create a connection between this fantastic new rate and the new dog. Creating good feelings in the existing furry family for the new addition.

If you use these steps, your new furry family member should fit right in.

Socializing steps that are critical to your dog’s health

Socializing steps that are critical to your dog’s health

Moving forward, there are other steps to socializing that are critical to your dog’s health.

You need to take the new dog and your existing furry family on walks so they can encounter other dogs and other people.

If possible, take your dog alone or with the furry family to a dog park. There you can see a wide range of dogs of all sizes.

The more interaction your dog has with other sizes of dog, the less likely they are to feel bullied or be a bully.

The same goes for people.

Invite friends and family to visit. Not all at once, you don’t want to throw a party right away.  Instead, the idea is to invite one or two people over at a time.

You want to bring in friends of all shapes and sizes.

Remember how we talked about facial hair and glasses?

Just like with dogs, you want your new family member to meet as many different types his people as possible. This will reduce their fear and make them feel more confident when they come across something that they have never seen before.

And the more confident your dog is in new situations, the less likely there is to be trouble.

Plus, they’ll be happier! And so will you.

For more information on training and manners, How to Prevent a Dog Bite! and How to socialize your puppy.

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Hi! My name is Heather Hallman. I’m the mother of two beautiful girls and a MAJOR passionate pet parent. I can hardly wait to bring you the BEST resources and information that I've found for our fur-babies.