How to Socialize Your Dog With Adam Silverman

Just like humans, dogs are social creatures and socialization is critical whether you have a new puppy or recently adopted a 6-year old dog. So we spoke to the talented Los Angeles-based dog trainer, Adam Silverman, all about socializing your closest confidants.

Adam has always been interested in pack dynamics and communication between dogs. His first job was working with hunting dogs on obedience training and behavioral issues. He then spent seven years training guide dogs for the blind. “I’ve had so much hands-on experience when I’m working with a client,” said Adam. “I really focus on participating in the training process and actually training the dog. A lot of trainers train the person to train the dog. That can work, but it depends on the client’s capabilities.”

Adam’s experience is fairly diverse and he’s best known as a balance trainer, which involves the use of both reward-based techniques and aversive consequences when needed. You can even catch him in the documentary Pick of the Litter, which is about five puppies on a two-year quest to become guide dogs for the blind.

Here, we share Adam’s best tips for socializing your dog, no matter his or her age.

Why is it important to socialize your dog?

If they have not been socialized properly and they are uncomfortable around people, they will inevitably encounter strangers and may develop problem behaviors, like biting. And it's, of course, unsafe for them to have that tendency. Because of the world we live in, if a dog bites, they could be put down. So it's our responsibility to socialize them at the very least to people, so that we're protecting them and advocating for them. Dogs are a social species both with humans and with other dogs and you want them to have a positive experience in this world and enjoy themselves.

Should you socialize your dog with a trainer?

For a puppy, you don't need a trainer. You can get by with a book or advice online. In that one to four-month period, puppies are very resilient. You can take them around and introduce them to all different types of people, dogs, and environments. And even if it's a negative one, again, they're very resilient and you can make that negative experience a positive one. It's just about repetition and exposure when they're in that early, imprinting stage.

Is socialization any different if you adopt a dog that isn't a puppy?

If you get a dog from the shelter that has some fear or a biting history, what's common is that they tend to have leash reactivity. They're barking and lunging and aggressive towards dogs and people, particularly dogs on leash. You'll want to hire a trainer to work on that. For some dogs, they may be better off-leash with one or two dogs that they're familiar with. But if they're aggressive and uncomfortable, they don't need to meet every dog. The safest, most comfortable thing for them might be just learning how to navigate those situations without interacting.

Because we're still in a pandemic and it's harder to interact with other people, how would you recommend socializing your dog?

Since you're limited in doing it at home, you need to take training on the road. Go to public places where there are lots of people, yet it's safe to be around them. Look for opportunities where someone wants to meet your dog or your puppy. You can often tell if an action between two dogs is going to go well based on their body language towards each other.