Socialising Adult Dogs or Rescue Dogs


Many people opt to purchase a new puppy from ethical dog breeders, which is by far the best and most reliable way of getting a well-behaved and healthy dog. However, there are many dogs in shelters or rescue centres who are also looking for loving homes. While adopting one of these older dogs comes with its own unique challenges, it can be even more rewarding than bringing home a puppy. 

Why Do Older Dogs Need Socialisation?

One common issue among shelter dogs is a lack of socialisation. No matter the age, socialising a dog is an important part of ensuring that they are happy and healthy. An older dog may have had limited exposure to other animals or people in the past, so introducing them to new experiences can be daunting. However, it is worth it to make sure that your dog is comfortable in any social setting and has the best chance of making new friends.

Challenges When Socialising an Older Dog

The key to success is patience and understanding. Here are some considerations that may make it harder to socialise an adult or senior dog:

1. Fear & Anxiety

Adult and senior dogs can come with fear and anxiety from their past experiences, especially if they’ve been neglected, mistreated or abandoned in the past. This can make them shy away from human contact, making socialisation more difficult. It’s important to take things slow when introducing your dog to new people and environments.

2. Limited Socialisation Window

Puppies have a critical socialisation window of 12–16 weeks where they learn how to interact with other animals and humans in a safe manner. Adult and senior dogs may not have had this opportunity, so it will be up to you as their owner to help them learn appropriate behaviour in these situations. 

3. Poor Health

Older dogs can sometimes suffer from various health issues that can limit their ability to participate in activities such as walking or playing outside with other dogs. This can make it difficult for them to gain positive experiences outside of their home environment which could help with their socialisation process. 

4. Lack of Patience

Adult and senior dogs typically need more patience when it comes to training and socialising than puppies do due to their age and past experiences. If they feel overwhelmed or scared by something new, it might take longer for them to adjust than a younger dog would in the same situation. 

5. Lack of Energy and Interest

Senior pups may not have the same level of energy as younger pups which can make taking part in activities such as walks or playtime less enjoyable for them. This lack of interest could also lead them away from interacting with other animals or humans. 

How to Start Socialising an Adult Dog

Start by familiarising your dog with basic obedience commands like sit, stay, down and come. Some older dogs will already know these commands, but it’s always good to revisit this training. This will help establish trust between you and your dog and give them a sense of security when engaging with others. Make sure to reward them for good behaviour with treats or praise as this will help build their confidence.

Once your dog is comfortable with basic commands, it’s time to start introducing them to new people and other animals. Start by bringing them around family members or friends who are comfortable around dogs. This will help your dog become more used to being around people and get accustomed to different smells, sounds and sensations that they may not be used to. 

Once they seem relaxed around these individuals, you can slowly introduce them to unfamiliar faces in controlled environments such as parks or open spaces where there are few distractions. Make sure that all interactions between humans and animals remain calm at all times so as not to overwhelm or frighten your dog. 

In addition to human interaction, it’s important for your older dog to get used to being around other animals as well. Taking them on regular walks will help expose them gradually to different kinds of animals in a safe environment where they won’t feel threatened or overwhelmed.

If possible, try finding friends who also own dogs that you could go on walks with so your pooch can get used to being around a variety of other dogs without feeling intimidated by large groups of strange animals. 

Finally, socialisation doesn’t just mean exposing your pup to people and other animals – it also means teaching them how to behave properly in various situations. Having rules in place like no jumping up on visitors or no barking while out on walks will go a long way towards helping your dog understand what is expected from them in public settings.


While socialising an adult or senior dog may take longer than one would expect when dealing with a puppy due these factors, it is still possible if done correctly through plenty of patience, understanding and positive reinforcement training methods. 

By creating ongoing opportunities for your dog’s learning, they’ll gradually build up confidence and comfort, no matter where they may be. 

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