Dog running towards the camera

Adopting a new dog is an exciting and fulfilling experience. Adding a new furry child to your home brings with it a set of challenges in and of itself. Bringing in a new dog with an unknown history can add to those challenges. This begs the question: How do you socialize a dog when you don’t know its history? Here are a few tips:

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Many dogs adopted from the shelter or other means are assumed to have a negative past or something that deemed them “bad.” This is simply not the case! Most dogs are given to the shelter for reasons beyond their control like divorce, death, or their pet parents moving to a place where the dog cannot be kept. If possible, ask the shelter or owner about the dog to get a better understanding of their interactions during their stay. They will know how they interacted with other people and dogs and can provide valuable insight before you begin the adoption process.

Establish trust

Wanting to show off your new dog to the rest of the world is understandable as a proud pet parent. But remember, your new dog is also new to you. While socializing your dog is incredibly important, it is equally as important to take socializing at a pace that your dog can handle. Give your dog time to relax and adjust to their new home and to you as a pet parent. Earning their trust is the first key to success. You can help this process by taking them on a short walk around the block or even just up the street. Leave the leash on them when they get home and let them explore each room and area. This reinforces the idea that it is now their home, too. Over time, your dog will learn that you are here to stay and they are safe.

Go slow

Once your dog has become more comfortable with you and knows the basic commands of Sit, Come, and Leave, introduce them to at least three new experiences each week. This can be wearing a hat when you feed them, making a noise with a water bottle while they are eating, introducing them to a neighbor, or having them meet a friendly dog on leash. Remain calm when introducing these experiences, and soon your dog will begin to adjust and cope with these interruptions or opportunities.

Benefits of socialization

Introducing your new dog to new elements and experiences is essential to their health and wellness. While you may never know their history, you can make an impact on their future, and teach them that new experiences do not have to mean negative experiences. Improved confidence, eased anxiety, and increased health are all benefits of a well socialized dog.

When in doubt, contact a certified animal behaviorist or professional dog trainer to step in and provide advice. Then when your dog is ready, help them socialize even more at doggie daycare at Dogtopia where trained experts will provide your dog with all the tips and tricks they need for a well socialized life.


-Written by Colleen Demling, Dogtopia’s Canine Behaviorist. With over 30,000 hours and 15 years of HANDS ON dog training experience, Colleen is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Behaviorist. She is a frequent contributor to local and national media including Yahoo, The Huffington Post, Woman’s Day and many more. Colleen was a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year by Women in the Pet Industry Network. She was also named a 2015 Woman of Influence and one of the Top 40 Under 40 by Pet Age Magazine.