dogs playing with toy.

Pet socialization is an important part of calling a four-legged friend yours. Just as people develop social skills throughout life, social skills are important for pets, too. Especially the canine friends among us. Cats can be surprisingly social creatures, too—in the right circumstances. 

Here at MarketPlace Veterinary Hospital, we want to help you with every aspect of owning a pet. That includes helping your pawsome pal develop pet social skills. 

The Benefits of Pet Interaction

Dogs are descended from wolves, and wolves run in packs. Like the amazing creatures they are, dogs have expanded their social circle to include humans along with other canines. (Wolves, on the other hand, have not!)

A study published in the scientific journal Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health found that dogs with social connections to both humans and other animals enjoy longer lives. 

That’s something to bark about! 

As for cats, it’s true that many enjoy their solitude a little more than dogs. But they still rely on socialization with people and other cats to develop the skills needed to live in a home with humans. 

So how can you help your precious pet reap the benefits of socialization? 

Let’s explore a few tips. 

Pet Socialization Tips

The best time for your pet to get core socialization is between the ages of 3 and 14 weeks for dogs or 2 and 7 weeks for cats. If you have a young pet at home, expose her to an array of sights, sounds, smells, animals, and people during this time. This will help her get used to living among your family and will make later socialization efforts easier. 

But if you adopt a pet that’s shy and lacks social skills, there’s still hope. You can: 

  • Take it slow: Gradually introduce your pet to new people and animals. Try meeting up with friends who have extra-friendly or passive-natured pets that won’t respond to your pet’s anxiety with aggression. Once your pet is comfortable with that, move to the next step. This could mean taking your pet to a pet store or hardware shop that allows animals and letting strangers greet her. Or it could mean visiting a dog park or popular nature trail.
  • Create positive associations: Bring a special treat or toy along when you meet new people and animals. This will help your dog or cat form strong, positive associations with braving unfamiliar social situations. 
  • Make a safe space available: Our pets can get burned out on social activities just like we do. Provide your pet with a safe, quiet space to retreat to when he needs a break from all the fun.
  • Consider a social skills class: Dogs and cats alike can benefit from a social skills class where they meet other furry friends and their pet parents. A skilled instructor can guide you and your pet through appropriate ways to:
    • Greet other pets and their humans
    • Act around resources like food or favorite toys
    • Manage anxiety and stress
    • Follow basic commands
    • Address problem behaviors like biting, scratching, or excessive vocalizing

With patience and persistence, your efforts for socializing your pets will be rewarded. You and your dog (or cat) will get to enjoy a calmer life together—no matter how many other pets, children, or people you bring to your home. 

Happy Pet, Happy Life

Is your pet struggling with her social skills? Our friendly team of veterinarians is here to help. Call us at 916-939-1705 or request an appointment online. We look forward to supporting you and your beloved pet in your socialization adventures.