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Ask Dr. Diane: My New Rescue Isn’t Socialized

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putting-on-leashI just adopted a mixed breed dog about five years old; I don’t think he has been very well socialized. He gets along well with our family but does not like other people. He growls at the meter readers and any non-family members that come over. I am worried a little about him biting someone and want him to be happy when other people come over. What should I do when introducing him to new people?

There are some dogs, like people, who, for many different reasons, are shy, fearful or aggressive.  They do not enjoy or easily accommodate the presence of strangers.  It is best to provide your dog with obedience training that include and incorporate basic commands such as COME, SIT, STAY, HEEL, etc. Obedience training is usually readily available and accessible to dog owners.  Consult your vet and/or friends or neighbors who have animals that have received obedience training.  Also, I would suggest that you take your pet to socialization classes offered by most of the large pet products stores such as Petco or PetsMart. You can also have your dog assessed by an animal behaviorist to determine the kind of aggressive behavior your dog is manifesting.

If, after consulting with a behaviorist and participating in obedience and socialization classes, your dog’s behavior is still worrisome, do your best to ensure he knows the basic obedience commands and keep him away from and out of contact with new people.  He may simply be incapable of healthily adjusting to strangers.  Just love and accept him as he is.  Keep him in a room or place where he feels safe and happy when you have visitors.   It simply isn’t worth the anguish of having him frighten or hurt another animal or person.


Dr. Pomerance is an animal behavior specialist and an expert on topics such as deciding which puppy is best for your family, how to pick out a rescue, and on healing from the loss of a pet.

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