Should You Socialize Your Dog At Your Next Family Get-Together?

fearful dogs Aug 30, 2023

You've got a family get-together coming up, and you're wondering if this might be a good opportunity to socialize your fearful dog with your family. While it might seem like a convenient time to help your dog get to know your family, there are a few reasons that you might want to consider leaving your dog out of a family gathering. 


Reason #1 NOT to use a family get-together to socialize your dog:  You risk overwhelming your dog

For most fearful dogs, being around multiple unfamiliar people is already too much for them to handle. Add in a car ride to a family member's home, a new place, lack of familiar safe spaces, children running around, other pets... even a very confident dog might start to feel anxious.  A fearful dog might completely shut down, or worse, lash out to try to get personal space. 


Reason #2 NOT to use a family get-together to socialize your dog:  YOU'LL probably be stressed 

Trying to multi-task sensitive dog training tasks with relaxing with family or friends often results in neither being done well. You're trying to watch your nervous dog while kids run by, and miss out on conversation. Or, you're distracted while chatting with family, and fail to protect your fearful pup from being cornered by a toddler. In the end, you're constantly worried about your dog and not really enjoying time with your family, which was the whole point of the get-together.  You might well be doing both yourself and your dog a favor by leaving them home. 


What can you do INSTEAD of socializing your dog at family get-togethers?

If you've decided not to bring your dog along to your next family gathering, what should you do instead? Here are some options:

  • Leave your dog with a sitter. You'll need to introduce your dog to a pet sitter, and this will likely take some time. But once you have one or more pet sitters who can stay with your dog, you can decide when and how to introduce your dog to family outside of large, hectic get-togethers.
  • Introduce your dog to your family more gradually. It will likely be much easier for your dog to meet your family one at a time, for short visits that are dedicated to training your dog. Some dogs will then eventually be able to attend larger family gatherings more comfortably, after becoming comfortable with family members in smaller "doses". 

Work with a good positive reinforcement trainer to develop a plan to introduce your dog to both pet sitters and family members. If you'd like to work with us on this issue, shoot us an email at [email protected] to learn more about our training options. 


  If you found these tips helpful, we'd love to hear from you! You can comment below this blog, shoot us an email ([email protected]), or message us on Facebook or Instagram.