Many dogs are deliberately not socialized – guard dogs, some guide dogs, drug sniffing dogs and others who have specialized duties. Many others simply live with people who don’t regard it as important enough to bother about. Many animals from shelters have had unpleasant experiences, making the task more difficult.
But socializing your Golden Retriever is not only easy, it leads to a better adjusted dog and higher safety for you and your pet. Fortunately, where Goldens are concerned, socializing your dog is relatively easy. Like any animal, in the absence of exposure while young to other dogs, animals and humans they can be wary and territorial.
Goldens are naturally curious, intelligent, active and eager to please. They play with other pups in the litter, making a game of dominance activities and exploration. You can build on that in-built social nature to acclimate them to pets of other breeds or species in the home and outside it.
Start socializing your Golden at a young age, approximately 8-10 weeks. Take proper precautions, though. You want to carry out the process safely and there are two major sources of risk. The first is physical injury, the second is disease.
Goldens are not particularly aggressive, relative to many other breeds. They prefer to play. That puts them at a disadvantage when other dogs or animals attack. Carrying out socialization safely will first require the ability to control the environment and any movement that your dog and another animal can make. Use of enclosed areas and/or proper leashes or harnesses are the minimum safeguards needed.
Next, ensure that your Golden is properly vaccinated and that they’re exposed only to other animals that are too. Kennel cough and other, more serious, infectious diseases are common in many environments. When exposed, vaccination makes the difference between becoming infected or not.
Once you’re in a safe place, with the proper restraints and the absence of surprises or distractions, you can easily socialize your Golden. The initial phase takes only a few weeks, though the process should ideally be carried out continuously for life.
Firmly grasp the leash and allow your dog to use its natural curiosity to explore the other animal. The other animal, needless to say, should be similarly restrained. Most young Goldens will want to ‘play nice’. They’re friendly and eager to explore this new phenomenon.
Individual responses will differ somewhat, since even among Goldens there are alpha dogs and omega dogs, those who are assertive and those who hold back. But even shy dogs can welcome contact if they’re made to feel there is no danger, and that the alpha (that’s you, in this case) is in control.
First contact should be relatively short, a few minutes at most. Gradually work up to longer exposure and a wider variety of humans and animals. Those who grow up together will usually not require any special considerations, but outsiders should be introduced slowly.