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Dog Training and Behavior

Cesar Millan vs. OVERPROTECTIVE Rottweiler

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Dog Training and Behavior

Can You Shave A Lab? – Why Shaving A Lab Is A Bad Idea

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can you shave a lab? – why shaving a lab

This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.

With the summer almost upon us, you might be concerned about how your Labrador is going to fare under all that thick coat.

If your pooch is already panting and seems like it’s struggling in the heat, you might be tempted to shave your dog. But, can you shave a Lab, or is there something better you can do to keep your pooch safe in the oppressive heat?

Whether you want to keep your pooch cool in the summer, reduce the shedding, or get rid of fleas from their coat, shaving should never be the solution! 

A dog’s coat isn’t the same as human hair, and your Labrador won’t experience any of the benefits you get when cutting your hair in the summer. In fact, your Lab’s fur provides insulation, and shaving it off can cause more harm than good to your pooch.

If you are thinking of shaving your Labrador, put the clippers down and keep on reading.

In this article, I’ll explain the purpose of your dog’s coat and why you should never shave it. 

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The True Purpose Of Labrador’s Coat

If you own a Labrador retriever, you already know that this breed has a thick double coat. But do you know what having a double coat means?

Besides Labradors, many other dog breeds have a double coat, including German shepherds, Siberian huskies, and Border collies, just to name a few. 

The main thing you should know about a double coat is that it’s made out of two layers – an outer layer and the inner layer. 

Often called top coat or guard hairs, the outer layer consists of longer and coarser hair that is more abrasive to the touch. The outer layer acts as a sort of barrier, keeping the dirt, debris, and sun rays away from your dog’s skin and undercoat.

The inner layer, also known as the undercoat, is made up of dense, short hairs that usually have a wooly texture and are soft to the touch. In fact, this dense and soft layer produces all those hairs that your Lab is shedding all over your home all year round. 

Besides making your Lab look great, their glorious coat has several important functions, including temperature regulation, protection, and being a natural barrier against dirt. 

A shaved Labrador retriever is essentially stripped naked and no longer can experience any of these vital protections their coat offers. 

The internet proves that many dog owners don’t understand how a double coat works! A simple search will lead you to countless pictures of shaved Labradors, huskies, Pomeranians, and many other dogs that shouldn’t be shaved. 

Essentially, nature equipped the Lab with such a coat to keep it protected in all sorts of weather conditions. The coarse outer layer is water repellant and is designed to keep your Lab’s skin protected from water, ice, and dirt.

The thick and dense undercoat, on the other hand, plays a different role and helps keep your Lab protected in different temperatures. In fact, the undercoat keeps your Labrador nice and warm during winter but acts as an amazing cooling mechanism during summer. 

As it turns out, the undercoat is, in fact, your pup’s insulation system that works non-stop to ensure your Lab is protected against the elements all year round. 

When you shave your Lab’s coat, you are taking away your dog’s natural ability to regulate their body temperature and stay cool during summer and warm during winter.

By the way, while hair is not quite the same as a Labrador Retrievers fur coat, I as a balding man have experienced the importance of hair protecting from the elements.

Just like Michael Jordan I shaved my head as I began balding. Now that I don’t have hair my head is easily sun burnt and gets very warm in the summer months. Meanwhile in the winter months my head gets extremely cold. Hair definitely serves a purpose. I’m not sure why humans evolved to go bald.

Furthermore, you are also stripping your dog of the hair that is used to move essential oils across their skin. This can cause your dog to develop all sorts of skin problems that might require a trip to the veterinarian and prescription medicine. 

Whether you want to keep your Labrador cool in the hot weather, get rid of fleas once and for all, or reduce shedding, shaving your Lab isn’t a solution. 

Why Shaving A Lab To Reduce Shedding Won’t Work? 

At this point, you have a clear picture of why you shouldn’t shave a Lab to keep them cool in the summer, but what about shedding? If you thought you could shave a Lab to minimize the shedding during the shedding season, I’m here to disappoint you!

Shedding is something you will have to live with if you decide to welcome a double-coated dog, such as Labrador, into your home. Unlike dogs with a single coat, double-coated breeds shed all year round and also go through a shedding season.

During the shedding season, your Lab will shed more than usual, and at some point, you’ll wonder how they still have any hairs left on them.

This type of shedding is also known as coat blow, and it is seasonal. So, your Lab will shed its thick undercoat in the spring in preparation for the warmer weather and summer.

There are several things every dog owner needs to know about their dog’s coat, including that shedding is a completely normal part of a dog’s life. Furthermore, your dog must shed its old fur to maintain healthy skin and coat. 

Shedding and coat blowing is nature’s way of helping your dog adapt to temperature changes. Technically speaking, shaving your Lab will reduce the shedding, but only because your dog won’t have any hairs to shed. 

6 Reasons Why You Should Never Shave A Labrador

If you are still unsure about shaving your Lab or are just curious to find out what would happen if you do, keep on reading. 

Also, if you unknowingly already shaved your Labrador retriever or have been shaving them regularly, it is time to stop. There isn’t much you can do now, except wait for their coat to grow. Be on the lookout for the potential side effects of shaving.

Listed below, are the six most common downsides of shaving a Labrador retriever:

1. Your Labrador’s Coat Will Never Be The Same

Most owners who decide to shave their Labs don’t realize that their dog’s coat will never be the same until it’s too late. Labradors naturally have a soft and thick inner coat, but once it is shaved and grows back, the undercoat is rougher, heavier, and prickly.

So, instead of those soft short hairs that have kept your Lab insulated during winter and summer, the new harsher hairs will only irritate their skin. You will understand the full extent of the damage only after your dog’s coat grows back again. But, be prepared that your Labrador’s coat will not be as soft, fluffy, or thick as it was before shaving. 

Also, whenever you shave your dog, the undercoat will start to grow immediately, but the outer layer grows much slower. The new coat usually ends up being unruly and more susceptible to attracting dirt and debris. If this happens, you’ll need to bathe your dog more often than you did before you shaved them. 

2. Shaved Labrador Retrievers Can Get Sunburns

Have you ever wondered how your Lab doesn’t get sunburns, even though they are playing in the direct sun? That’s because your dog’s outer coat serves as a protective barrier that prevents the sun rays from reaching your dog’s skin.

Since dogs have more sensitive skin than people, shaving your Lab puts it at a high risk of getting sunburns and hot spots the first time it goes out in the sun. But, that’s not the worst of it! Without the coat and the protection it offers against UV light, your pooch is also at risk of getting skin cancer. 

If you already shaved your dog, don’t take it outside during the hottest part of the day. Furthermore, consider dressing your dog in a t-shirt that will offer some sort of protection, and also use dog sunscreen to prevent sunburns and other more serious problems.

3. Shaving Your Lab Can Increase Your Allergies

Most people with allergies believe that it’s the dog’s coat and the shedding that is causing the sneezing and a runny nose. In this case, shaving a lab to reduce shedding might seem like the best and the only way to deal with pet allergies. 

However, despite popular beliefs, it’s not the hair, but the dander that causes repetitive sneezing, teary eyes, and runny nose. Pet dander is, in fact, small specks of skin that your dog sheds, whether they have a coat or not.

In fact, shaving your dog increases your contact with dander, since now no fur can trap it and keep it from becoming airborne. By shaving your Lab’s coat, you will unintentionally give the dander an opportunity to spread everywhere and cause more severe allergy symptoms. 

If after shaving your Lab your allergy seems way worse than before, know that this is a common side effect of shaving a dog.

4. Coat Regrowth Can Be Extremely Uncomfortable 

This is one of those things most owners fail to consider before shaving their dog’s coat. Truth be told, hair regrowth is rarely pleasant for both people and dogs and can make your Lab extremely uncomfortable.

When you shave your Labrador’s coat completely, the soft undercoat will be gone for good. While the new coat is growing out, the hairs will be harsh, prickly, and make your dog itchy. 

Itching and scratching go hand in hand, and your dog might inflict painful self-injuries by scratching their sensitive skin. If this happens, your pooch might even transfer bacteria from their paws to their skin and end up with a skin infection. 

Furthermore, the new coarse and prickly hairs will probably scratch you whenever you try to pet or cuddle your pooch. 

5. Shaving Disrupts Your Lab’s Natural Insulation System

The outer coat has the function of protecting the undercoat, while the undercoat has the function of protecting your dog’s skin against the elements. If you carefully observe a recently shaved Labrador retriever, you will quickly spot the negative effects of shaving. 

Due to the lack of coat and the protection it offers, your Lab will become more sensitive to heat, cold, humidity, and wind. The thing most owners realize too late is that shaving makes their dogs more vulnerable to weather conditions, not the other way around. 

The main reason your Lab becomes sensitive is that they no longer have the undercoat to keep them insulated and help regulate their body temperature. 

Furthermore, the undercoat has been insulating your dog from birth, and your Lab has gotten used to this function. So when their coat is shaved, everything changes and your dog no longer has that basic level of insulation.

There is also a chance that once you shave your dog, the quality of the new coat will not be as good at keeping them insulated. There is a chance that the new coat won’t be able to effectively cool your dog in the summer or keep them warm and insulated during winter. 

If this happens, you will notice that your Lab is panting more heavily on hot summer days. This can also explain why your Lab is more easily chilled or shivering during colder winter days. 

6. Shaved Labs Are More Difficult To Keep Clean

An active dog such as a Labrador is bound to become dirty and covered in mud and grime way faster than your average couch potato dog. Having a water-repellant outer coat helps trap all the dirt and moisture away from your dog’s skin. 

While this might not seem like much, your dog’s coat plays a huge role in keeping them clean and easier for you to groom. 

Once you shave your pooch, they will no longer have the coat to trap the dirt from reaching the skin. As a result, your dog will appear dirty all the time, and their coat will be more difficult to maintain and keep clean. There’s also a chance that your pooch will leave dirt and mud all over your bed, sofa, carpet, or any other area they lay on. 

To deal with all this dirt, you will start to bathe your Lab more frequently, which can cause more harm than good. Bathing your dog too often can cause damage to their skin and cause dry, flaky, and itchy skin. 

At the end of the day, you’ll realize that shaving your Lab created more work for you, and that now you have to bathe and groom your dog much more than ever before. 

FAQs About Shaving My Labrador Retriever

Is it OK to shave a Lab?

Being a double-coated dog breed, the Labrador retriever shouldn’t be shaved, unless your veterinarian says otherwise. Although most owners believe they are doing their Labs a favor by shaving them in the summer, it’s the complete opposite. The Lab’s double coat serves as a protective barrier and offers insulation, and once you shave it, you leave your dog defenseless.

Can you shave a Labrador coat?

Shaving your Labrador retriever can cause permanent damage to their coat and also puts them at risk of getting skin burns or skin cancer. The Lab’s coat has several functions and it acts as a protective barrier, keeping the sunrays, dirt, debris, and moisture away from your Lab’s skin and undercoat. 

The coat also helps regulate your dog’s body temperature and provides insulation, keeping them cool during summer and warm during winter. Shaving your Lab’s coat removes the protection it offers and makes it hard for your dog to regulate their body temperature. 

How can I stop my Labrador from shedding?

There are many ways you can reduce your Labrador’s shedding without shaving their coat. To minimize seasonal shedding, brush your Lab every day during the shedding season and use a deshedding tool. Bathing your dog with a shampoo formulated for shedding can help loosen the fur and reduce the loose hair. 

Maintaining a regular grooming routine and brushing your dog at least three times a week can help you reduce the amount of shedding throughout the year. If your Lab suddenly starts to shed more than usual, consult your vet and take your pooch for a check-up if necessary, 

The Final Verdict

Shaving your Lab might seem like a great idea and the best way to keep your pooch cool during summer. But the truth is that you’d be doing more harm than good to your dog!

The main reasons why you shouldn’t shave your Labrador retriever are:

  • Shaving causes permanent damage to your dog’s coat.
  • Shaved Labs can develop sunburns and skin cancer.
  • A growing coat can make your dog itchy and uncomfortable.

Have you ever shaved your lab?

If so, did you notice any of the negative effects mentioned above?

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

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Should I Shave My Lab? Why Shaving Your Labrador Is A Bad Idea - Yellow Lab sitting while being handled by someone - When you shave a Lab, you are permanently damaging their coat. Besides making your Lab prone to sunburns, shaving won’t reduce your dog’s shedding.

Top Picks For Our Dogs

  1. BEST PUPPY TOY
    We Like: Snuggle Puppy w/ Heart Beat & Heat Pack – Perfect for new puppies. We get all of our Service Dog pups a Snuggle Puppy.
  2. BEST CHEW TOY
    We Like: KONG Extreme – Great toy for heavy chewers like our Labrador Retrievers.
  3. BEST DOG TREATS
    We Like: Wellness Soft Puppy Bites – One of our favorite treats for training our service dog puppies.
  4. BEST FRESH DOG FOOD
    We Like: The Farmer’s Dog – A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer’s Dog.

For a list of all the supplies we get for our new service dog puppies check out our New Puppy Checklist on the PuppyInTraining.com blog.

Should I Shave My Lab? – Why Shaving Your Labrador Retriever Is A Bad Idea was last modified: June 23rd, 2021 by LTHQ

Source * www.labradortraininghq.com – * Source link

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Dog Training and Behavior

16 Top Jobs for Your Dog at Home

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16 top jobs for your dog at home

This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.

Our dogs have a pretty great life. Free food, healthcare, and all the toys they could play with.

But is that enough? Just like us, they need more than just physical exercise.

They need to exercise their minds! They need a “job.”

So what are some of the best jobs for dogs at home?

In the past year, dogs needed something to occupy themselves more than ever. During the pandemic, many dogs haven’t been able to go as many places as they did before.

So having more stimulation at home is really important.

Contents & Quick Navigation

What Does a “Job” Mean?

Of course, your dog isn’t going into the office from nine to five. But he will be doing some type of activity that exercises his body, his mind–or both.

Your dog needs to burn off steam. And having many different activities he can engage in at home will help satisfy that need.

He may even have to work for his kibble!

The job isn’t necessarily what your pup was bred to do. So it doesn’t have to be teaching your border collie to herd something back to you. Or having your hunting retriever catch a bird to bring to you.

A job is just an activity that exercises your dog’s body and mind. 

Jobs really come in handy too when you need your dog to be busy, such as on a rainy day.

Why Give Your Dog a Job?

In addition to exercising your dog’s body and mind, giving him a job has many other benefits, such as:

1. Tiring your dog

The old adage that “a tired dog is a good dog” still rings true. 

The less pent-up energy your dog has, the better he’ll feel. And he’ll be healthier if given an appropriate amount of exercise for his age and breed.

2. Challenging your dog’s body and mind

Your dog needs activities that stimulate him. The more he does, the more he can do.

He can be better at physical and mental challenges the more he grows with the challenges.

3. Strengthening the bond with your dog

The more you participate with your dog in his activities, the stronger your relationship will be.

4. Fighting boredom

Let’s face it, staying in the house round the clock can be very monotonous.

Just sitting staring at the wall is no way to live. So having our dogs participate in some activities gives them a fun, energizing life.

5. Relieving anxiety

A dog with nothing to do can be stressed. He may focus too much on every noise and motion in his environment having no outlet for his energy.

So having fun activities can go a long way to helping lower our pup’s stress level.

6. Making your dog less likely to misbehave

A dog with nothing to do will find his own fun. And it’s usually not what we want him to do.

A dog with some structured activities is less likely to chew on our furniture, jump on people, and get into the trash.

He won’t be bored and he’ll expend his energy in constructive ways.

7. Getting rid of pent-up energy

The jobs we give our dogs help them expend mental and physical energy.

So just like us before we go for our walk or play our favorite video game, our dogs have too much energy. Having tasks to do will solve that.

8. Being healthier and less likely to be overweight

You can give your dog some physical jobs like learning agility to help him keep fit.

9. Increasing a dog’s confidence

Giving your pup a job will increase his confidence. 

When he’s successful at new tasks, it can really increase his morale and view of himself.

What Are Some Jobs I Can Give My Dog?

There are so many physical and mentally stimulating activities you can give your dog. The sky’s the limit.

You just have to use your imagination. What does your dog like to do? 

What do you think he’ll find to be fun and challenging?

The following suggestions are just that. Many dogs love them.

But you can be creative as long as the activity is safe and not too challenging for your dog.

1. K9 Nose Work

Dogs naturally use their noses–they have a “nose brain.”

So, all we need to do is give them some direction to play some games with it.

You can do something as simple as having eight heavy plastic cups. Start with one and put it upside down with a treat under it.

Have your dog sniff at it. When he knocks it over, praise him. And he’ll be rewarded too with the treat.

Over time, add one upside down cup at a time. A treat should be under only one cup. Make sure to space the cups apart so that your dog doesn’t knock them all over at once.

My dogs have a lot of fun with this. It’s a treasure hunt for dogs. They act like they’ve discovered gold when they turn the right cup over and scarf down the treat.

There are even canine nosework classes where dogs learn to sniff out specific scents.

2. Treat-dispensing toys

You can literally make your dog work for his dinner by placing the kibble in a treat-dispensing toy.

They come in many different forms. There are balls that roll and dispense treats as they go.

I also like the Kong Wobbler. It’s sort of shaped like a bowling pin that moves back-and-forth when your dog tips it. The toy releases a treat or kibble you put in,

There’s a square toy called the Buster Cube. You can even adjust the difficulty level as your dog gets used to playing with it to keep it challenging.

3. Puzzle toys

There are so many different types of these on the market. So your dog won’t get bored.

There are various levels of difficulty. Start with an easier toy, then work up to the more difficult ones.

They offer various challenges: pushing buttons, pulling open drawers, sliding knobs, and spinning pieces of the toy.

In most of them, you place kibble or treats in the various compartments. Finding the prized edibles just adds to the excitement of the game.

PRO TRAINING TIP: Rotate your dog’s toys every week so that he doesn’t become bored with them.

4. Find-it games

They’re a lot of fun for you and your dog. If your dog can stay, you can put him in a sit-stay. Then, you can hide and tell him to “find me.”

At first, he has to learn what “find me” means.

So I usually train the dog by having someone hold the dog’s short leash or collar. Then, I go hide.

At first, I make it easy. I just go out of the room around the corner. 

When I call the dog to “find me,” the other person holding the dog back immediately releases the dog to discover where I am.

At first, you can repeat “find me” until the dog detects where you are.

Make it a party when your dog finds you. Say “Yes! Good dog!” And give him a couple of great treats. You can even pet your dog as part of his reinforcement if he enjoys it.

PRO TRAINING TIP: When training your dog, have pea-sized treats that your dog loves ready. We like using Zukes Mini Naturals when training our pups..

My Aussie mix puppy Millie loves this game. She’s quite an explorer going from room to room to locate me. And spins for joy when she discovers where I am. 

As a bonus, it’s also helped her recall.

Other find me games involve you hiding a few treats or toys in a room. At first you hide a treat and make sure that your dog watches where you put it before telling him to find it.

After he gets the idea, you can hide them when he’s not in the room. Then. take him in the room where the treats are hidden and tell him to “find it.”

It makes the dog think as well as use his natural instincts of finding something by scent.

5. Obedience training

Even if your dog knows the basics, you can up the ante.

If he knows how to stay, add distractions. Teach him to stay for a longer time. Keep making it more interesting and challenging for him.

Teach him more commands, such as to go to a place or to heel. Work on attention.

The more he learns, the more he can learn.

6. Trick training

Tricks are fun to teach. You can teach your dog to spin in a circle.

Or to dance on his hind legs. Or to catch a treat you throw.

Even older dogs can learn many tricks. You’ll be amused and your friends will be impressed!

7. Use a flirt pole

This is a toy that has a long cord with a toy dangling from the end. 

You wave the toy at the end around and the dog chases it. It’s a lot of fun and can help tire out your dog.

You can make one yourself or buy it.

I use this with my dogs. My sheltie Murphy especially loves chasing the toy at the end of the pole. And after a few minutes of play, it helps tire him out.

8. Snuffle mat

This is a mat with many pieces of cloth held together. You throw some treats or kibble in between the pieces of cloth and the dog has to sniff them out.

Dogs have a lot of fun using their sense of smell. And the food reward when they find it doesn’t hurt either.

9. Obstacle course

Even inside, you can set up a mini agility course in a large room or hallway.

You can purchase a kit or make your own obstacles.

You want to keep the obstacles low and safe even if you have a larger dog. 

You can use the pole from a broom as a jump set on two blocks.

You can set up five emptied laundry jugs in a line and lure your dog with a treat in front of his nose to weave in and out of them.

10. Impulse control exercises

Practice wait, stay, leave it, and settle.

These training exercises help your dog to learn self control. This is a very important skill for all dogs to know.

11. Chasing bubbles

They make dog-safe bubbles that some dogs love. 

They really enjoy chasing them, and it helps exercise them too.

12. Stuffed Kong

I love the Extreme Kong. It’s really durable. 

I freeze it overnight with some good quality mashed dog food. It takes my dog some time to work on it and clean it out.

My golden retriever Riley thinks it’s the greatest thing! He gets really excited and jumps for joy when I take it out of the freezer.

13. Free shaping games

This means that you place a safe item in a room and see what the dog invents to do with it. 

When he performs something that you like, you praise (“Yes!”) and reward with a treat.

You can use a large box cut to about six inches high and see what your dog does. 

He may first sniff it, then put a leg in it. 

If your goal is to have him get into the box, you praise and reward that step.

In shaping, you praise and reward each approximation of what you want for the final product.

Dogs then get to understand what behaviors you want. So you would keep praising and rewarding when he puts legs in the box.

Eventually, if you’re patient, he should get in the box.

This may take a few sessions depending on the dog.

14. Fetch

If your dog already retrieves toys to you, great!  Have him retrieve a toy to you and teach him to drop it in front of you or give it to your hand. 

If he doesn’t fetch, teach him. It’s fun and it provides good exercise.

Get a favorite toy your dog loves and wave it around in front of him, getting him excited. 

When you see that he wants to get it, throw it a few feet away. When he takes it, move away a few feet as he approaches you.

Praise him and give him a treat for the toy.

Do it a few times, adding the cue, “fetch” as he takes it, adding “give” when he releases the toy to you in exchange for a treat. 

15. Household chores

Your dog can actually perform work for you.

You can teach him to fetch the newspaper, close doors, pick up trash and put it in the can, fetch your slippers, and even pick up his toys and put them in his toy bin.

The sky’s the limit. Of course, you have to teach him basic behaviors of taking what you tell him to take and to bring them to you or put them in another place.

It takes time–many training sessions–and unlimited patience.

16. Carrying things

Teach your dog to carry things in a doggie backpack. 

They make them in various sizes. Don’t put heavy items in them. Of course, a larger dog can carry more.

Your pup can carry poop bags, his ball, and other light things. A larger dog can even carry a small water bottle for your hike.

Build up your dog’s endurance over time.

Conclusion

All dogs need a job. The more they stay at home, it’s important to still work their minds and bodies.

During the pandemic, it’s crucial that they remain active.

Of course, there are many types of jobs. Some are practical like putting away their toys. And other jobs like playing fetch are just for fun.

Dogs with jobs generally have lower anxiety levels, more confidence, and happier lives.

How about you? What games do you play with your dogs?

What are the best jobs for dogs at home?

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

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What Jobs Can My Dog Do At Home? - 16 Jobs for your dog - Yellow dog playing with puzzle toy on the carpet

Top Picks For Our Dogs

  1. BEST PUPPY TOY
    We Like: Snuggle Puppy w/ Heart Beat & Heat Pack – Perfect for new puppies. We get all of our Service Dog pups a Snuggle Puppy.
  2. BEST CHEW TOY
    We Like: KONG Extreme – Great toy for heavy chewers like our Labrador Retrievers.
  3. BEST DOG TREATS
    We Like: Wellness Soft Puppy Bites – One of our favorite treats for training our service dog puppies.
  4. BEST FRESH DOG FOOD
    We Like: The Farmer’s Dog – A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer’s Dog.

For a list of all the supplies we get for our new service dog puppies check out our New Puppy Checklist on the PuppyInTraining.com blog.

Debbie

CPDT-KA, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Behavior Specialist. Winner Channel 17’s Philly Hot List #1 Dog Trainer. Debbie has been training dogs for over 24 years and has nationally ranked obedience and rally dogs, agility dogs, trick dogs, and therapy dogs.

Debbie

16 Top Jobs for Your Dog at Home was last modified: June 15th, 2021 by Debbie

Source * www.labradortraininghq.com – * Source link

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Dog Training and Behavior

Can You Socialize an Older Dog?

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can you socialize an older dog?

This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.

So your new rescue is five years old–well beyond puppyhood. Don’t despair! You can still socialize your new companion.

I get the question all the time from new dog owners: “Can you socialize an older dog?”

Even if you’ve had your dog for years, you can still socialize him.

But you have to take it slow and expose your older dog to new things at his pace.

During the pandemic, it’s often been difficult to socialize a dog, but it can be done.

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What Does Socialization Mean?

When we think of socializing a dog, we usually think of him playing with new canine buddies and happily greeting new people.

But, in reality, socialization is so much more than that. It’s introducing a dog to new situations, people, animals, sights, sounds, and surfaces that he needs to face in everyday life.

It’s acclimating him to all the experiences that he’ll have to face in his world.

And it’s important to move at the dog’s pace and not force him to accept things before he’s ready.

PRO TRAINER TIP: When working with your dog, I advise using a well-fitted harness. A collar and a tight leash may convey to the dog that something’s wrong. An anti-pull harness I like is the Freedom Harness.

When Is the Ideal Time To Socialize a Dog?

The prime socialization period is from about three to 12 weeks old. Puppies should remain with their littermates until about eight weeks old, as they learn many things from their littermates and mother.

Then, when we get our new puppy, we can’t wait to show him off. We invite our friends over to see our fluffy companion.

And we can’t wait to take him on the road to show the world how adorable and smart he is.

But many of us rescue an older dog and don’t have the opportunity to socialize our pup during this critical period.

I’ve adopted dogs at older ages and also socialized many puppies. Even with puppies, their genetic make-up enters how successful you are in your socialization plan.

With a puppy who’s been properly socialized, you have a blank slate to work with. Whereas with an older dog, he may not have been socialized or have been poorly socialized.

But most older dogs can successfully be socialized.

Why Were Some Older Dogs Not Socialized?

Some dogs weren’t socialized when they were younger because their owners weren’t aware that they should be. 

Others weren’t because owners were afraid of their puppies getting canine diseases at a young age.

And some other people actually wanted their dogs not to be social–and even to be protective and aggressive.

Unfortunately, some puppies and dogs weren’t socialized because no one took the time and effort with them to do so. 

Yet others were abandoned.

So there are many reasons why an older dog wasn’t socialized.

What Are the Signs That an Older Dog Needs To Be Socialized?

Some dogs take everything in stride. And even if they haven’t been properly socialized, they adapt well to the real-world situations they face.

They have a relaxed, slightly opened mouth and their tail may sway in a loose, easy manner.

But most who haven’t been socialized will show some signs that they’re having difficulty adjusting to day-to-day life.

Some dogs may become reactive, whereas others may shut down when confronted with new situations.

1. Reactivity or aggression

A reactive dog may bark, lunge, have raised hackles (raised hair on his back), have a hard stare, or bare teeth. The reactivity may even escalate to a bite.

Not all reactive dogs will escalate to a bite. But if you see any of these signs, it’s advisable to get professional help.

2. Fearful behavior

A scared dog may have ears held back, try to run away, drool, tremble, hide, have a tucked tail or lowered body, or whine. Their hair may even shed dandruff and their paws may sweat even though it’s not hot out.

A fearful dog is anxious and stressed.

How Do I Socialize an Older Dog?

The important thing to remember in socializing an older dog is that he needs to learn how to accept many new experiences to function in our world.

But he may not love all other dogs or people.

A common misconception is that socialization means your dog needs to love all dogs and people he meets.

Every dog is an individual whose past experiences and genetics influence how he reacts to new situations.

And just as we don’t love everyone we meet, we need to respect our dog’s limitations.

It’s often best with a dog who hasn’t been socialized to get professional help. If you find that your dog is very scared of the world, you want to give him the best chance that you can to make progress.

If you see any aggression such as growling, snapping, or lunging, you definitely need such assistance.

A positive reinforcement trainer who has experience socializing older dogs can really help you be successful. A board-certified veterinary behaviorist may be required if anxiety medications are required.

Engage only rewards-based, force-free professionals, not those who use dominant or corrective methods.

The following suggestions assume that your dog is healthy and can perform the exercises discussed.

PRO TRAINER TIP: Have yummy treats ready so that your older dog associates the world with positive things. Freeze dried liver, cheese, hot dogs, and chicken can work. Make sure that the treats aren’t too fatty and are tolerated by your dog. Just have them cut up into pea-sized treats.

1. Take him out for daily or at least regular walks

Taking him out not only physically exercises him but also exposes him to the world.

He gets to see new people, new dogs, cars, bikes, and motorcycles. He may pass by flags flying in the wind, see and hear children playing, see squirrels scurrying up a tree–and much more.

In my opinion, as long as your dog can handle it, exposing him to these real-lifesights, sounds, and activities makes his life much more interesting.

Expose him to things slowly–especially if he’s new to you.

You want him to have positive associations with the world. Have your treats ready and reward and praise him for calm behavior. 

If she shows that he’s frightened of something, don’t force him to go near it. Instead, distance yourself far enough away that he’s not scared.

2. Work at your dog’s pace

It’s really important not to push your dog too fast. 

Some dogs are naturally more outgoing than others, whereas others are shyer.

So don’t ever force your dog into a situation that’s uncomfortable for him.  For example, if you see that your pup’s too scared to go up to someone, don’t force him to.

Take “puppy steps.”

Instead, distance yourself from the person or situation. Just calmly walk a short distance away until your dog isn’t stressed.

Some of the signs your dog may show when stressed are:

Yawning, panting, drooling, trembling, pacing, hiding, lip licking, tense body, and tail tucked.

3. Set realistic goals

Not every dog is going to love everyone and everything. And that’s alright.

When I’m training a new dog, my goal is to make him comfortable in his world. And to expand his world as much as he can handle it, so that he doesn’t live a boring life. 

I want him to have the happiest life he can have.

One of my rescues, Linkin, was a very abused Lhasa apso. He was terrified of everything that was new to him, and he was especially fearful of people.

It took many months for Linkin to trust new people. With slow introductions to newcomers and new situations–as well rewarding him for even incremental progress–he eventually looked forward to his walks.

But it took a lot of work and not forcing him to accept things when he wasn’t ready.

4. Have patience

It’s often difficult to wait because we all want our dogs to be Lassie. 

It’s easy to get frustrated and want to give up. As long as you see improvement, that’s great! 

In the beginning, your dog may be afraid of the mailbox he passes. He may cower and try to pull away as he passes it.

If you give a treat as he passes (or even goes near it), also praise him so that he knows that’s the behavior that you desire.

Eventually, he’ll understand that’s what he should do, and he’ll also associate good things with what he at first feared.

5. Train your dog

Obedience training helps us communicate with our dogs.

It teaches him the rules that we expect to be followed. And it gives him confidence in his world.

Until he understands what’s expected of him, he may feel insecure in his world. And then the world may be more scary.

Teaching basic commands will also help you work with him. If you can get his attention, it can help him to look at you and not be too focused on something that frightens him.

Teaching him to walk on a loose leash will also help in his socialization because a tight leash can convey to a dog that something’s wrong.

Training classes are also a great, safe way to expose your dog to new settings, people, and dogs. In the training class, all of the dogs should be on leash at a safe distance from each other.

6. Introduce your dog to friends and family

Often, it’s good to start introducing your older dog to people you know at first. They need to listen to you and not rush at your dog.

Interactions must be positive. If the dog is too scared to have people approach, have the person at a distance, not staring at the dog. 

Have your dog meet only one person at the time to begin.

When the dog calmly looks at the person, praise and immediately give a treat. The person should be at a distance where the dog isn’t visibly stressed.

Over time, which may be days, weeks, or even months, you can have the person be closer when the dog can handle it. 

Eventually, as your dog is able to be closer to a person, you can have that individual give him the yummy treat.

At first, I never have the person hand the dog the treat. That can be too threatening to some dogs.

One exercise I use to help an older dog understand that new people are safe and not scary or threatening is to gently toss a yummy treat near the dog while using the cue “hi.”

So, in meeting a new person, I would first show that individual how to do this without the dog present. And practice a few times without the dog present so that the distance of the throw and gentle treat toss is done correctly.

The dog should be on a loose leash no more than six feet long. The new person tossing the treat should stay about eight feet away.

The person greeting the dog shouldn’t stare at him, and can even turn slightly sideways.

The person greeting the dog should toss the yummy treat near him while saying “hi, (dog’s name).”

Just do this three or four times in a row in a training session. Then, walk away with your dog.

Eventually, the cue “hi” with the dog’s name will mean to him that something great’s coming from the person.

And the more people you do this with, the more your dog will believe that people are good.

Eventually, over time, the new person can hand your dog the treat. But only do this if you’re sure that your dog is to the point that he trusts people.

Once your dog accepts some people, slowly introduce him to a wide array of people: women, men, people of different races, people with hats, people with coats, and others he may meet in his everyday life.

You want him to generalize that people are good and not to be feared. Some dogs may love people; others may love some people. And some may just love their immediate family.

To me, the goal is that we get our dogs to the point that they can function in the world without stress and fear.

Just take it slowly and don’t rush the process. Get professional help if you need it.

7. Keep expanding your dog’s world

As he’s able to handle it, take him new places such as pet stores,

In the beginning when I’m socializing an older adult dog, I take them places that are not too busy. 

So I take them to pet stores at an off time, not on a busy Saturday afternoon. Or to parks where dogs aren’t loose. Or to new shopping centers when it’s not busy.

A rescued golden retriever that I had, Brandi, was a former breeding dog at a puppy mill. She was fearful of new situations, so I started introducing her to new locations very slowly.

We went to pet stores about an hour before they were about to close. There were no customers in the store and it was very quiet.

I would give her yummy treats as we went in the store. Then, I’d give her some as we walked around.

It took months before she felt comfortable in that setting. Because she actually seemed to enjoy her new adventures, eventually I took her places when they were busier.

Over time, she adjusted and loved her new-found freedom.

If, at any time she seemed stressed, we went back a step at which she was successful. Then moved onward again.

Eventually, you can take your dog to busier places when he’s able to handle it without being too stressed.

PRO TRAINER TIP: If your dog is too frightened, he won’t eat the treat. Don’t panic! Just go back to the step that he was successful.

8. Introduce your dog to new dogs

This can be tricky. Not all dogs want a canine friend in their face.

So I advise erring on the side of caution. First, let your dog see a dog at a distance. Reward calm behavior. Praise and treat. 

You want your canine buddy to have a positive association with other dogs. 

Don’t overstay your welcome. Just keep moving on your walk. 

Over time, you can get closer to other dogs. You can even do practice sessions with a friend’s nonreactive, friendly dog. 

Keep distance, getting closer over time. This may take weeks for your dog to be comfortable.

Over time, as long as your dog isn’t stressed, you can get closer. You and your friend can even walk your dogs parallel to each other, but far enough away that they can’t reach each other. 

Eventually, you can walk them closer together as long as they aren’t stressed or reactive.

Then, you can do the same thing with other friendly, nonreactive dogs.

If at any time either dog seems stressed, just move away and end the encounter.

I don’t normally let dogs I’m working with go face-to-face with each other.

Normally, it would be unsafe even for friendly dogs to think that it’s alright to rush up to another strange dog. 

In order to be that close, I read the body language of each dog to determine whether they should interact.  

Remember: not all dogs love another dog in their space or face.

Also, in real life, we just need our dogs to ignore and not be stressed by dogs in the environment.

9. Distance matters

When introducing your dog to new people, situations, items, or dogs, it’s important not to drag them up to it.

Let your dog determine where to start.

Always start at a distance your dog can handle. If he seems too stressed, add distance. 

Move back a few feet. Calmly tell your dog “let’s go” (or whatever his motion command is) and walk away to a distance he doesn’t seem anxious.

Stay upbeat and use a happy voice. If your dog senses that you’re stressed, he will be too.

What Shouldn’t I Do?

In introducing your older dog to the world, It’s important not to rush things. Positive reinforcement techniques will show him that the world is worth exploring.

1. Don’t force the dog to be exposed to an experience or being

If your dog appears to be too stressed or reactive when exposed to a new experience, person, or dog, back off. 

You may be too close, so move away as we discussed above. The important thing is don’t drag your dog up to what he fears.

Doing so will inevitably make matters worse.

I’m not a fan of dog parks. Not all dogs who enter may be friendly to others. 

For a dog just learning to greet or be near other dogs, it can be disastrous to have a group of dogs rushing him

One-on-one introductions are better and more likely to be successful. After all, we want our dogs to trust us and what we’re introducing him to.

2. Don’t correct your dog for a fearful or reactive response

A dog who’s stressed can’t help it. Correcting him for reactions you don’t approve of will show him that the world is to be feared.

Through positive association with new things, your older dog will better understand that good things happen when he engages with the world.

Conclusion

In socializing your older dog, it’s important to respect his limitations. Each dog’s an individual. 

Some will adjust more quickly to new experiences than others will. As long as he’s healthy, it makes his world more interesting when we expand it.

Have you had experience socializing and older dog?

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

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Can You Socialize An Older Dog - YES! - Older dog sitting with dog behind him barking

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Debbie

CPDT-KA, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Behavior Specialist. Winner Channel 17’s Philly Hot List #1 Dog Trainer. Debbie has been training dogs for over 24 years and has nationally ranked obedience and rally dogs, agility dogs, trick dogs, and therapy dogs.

Debbie

Can You Socialize an Older Dog? was last modified: June 6th, 2021 by Debbie

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