• Shannon

Raising An Adventure Dog–Post 2 Socialization

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Getting Out & About

The foundation for any adventure dog is proper socialization. When your puppy has enough vaccinations to be able to venture out into the world a bit (always consult your veterinarian with regard to what vaccines your puppy needs), it is very important that you expose them to many different sights, sounds and situations. This also includes new people and new dogs. A dog that is comfortable in all situations is a joy to be around. A dog that is uncomfortable is not, and behaviors that stem from fear can manifest themselves in many different ways, the most serious of which is fear aggression.

The privilege of being able to take your dog to local parks, restaurants and stores is exactly that–a privilege. We represent dog owners as a whole each and every time we bring our dog to one of these places. If we want to keep enjoying these privileges, we must make sure our canine friends are properly taught how to behave. We as owners must make sure we are being courteous to those around us by picking up after our dogs and making sure that they are not disturbing others.

Freya’s First Trip Downtown

We live close to a lovely little area that is extremely dog-friendly and usually bustling with folks at the park, dining at one of the many local dog-friendly cafes or in this case enjoying a local art fair. There are many opportunities to meet other people and dogs as well as practice road crossings and learn about things like cars and motorcycles. I knew that there would likely be other dogs there that would bark and lunge at Freya, and this would give me a good idea of whether or not we would be dealing with dog reactivity. She was already protective of our home and yard, but that is different from being out in public. Guarding their territory (i.e. vehicle, home, yard) is something that guarding and working breeds are meant to do, but they should not display those same types of behaviors when simply walking down the street.

Clara snoozing in her Kurgo Loft Car Seat

As expected, she was quite nervous when we got out of the truck. She was looking all around, tail tucked under. I’d brought one of the other dogs along (Clara), essentially for support. Being around an older, calmer dog that isn’t displaying signs of fear or nervousness can help puppies to realize that hey, this new situation might not be so bad! When we began walking, Freya relaxed a bit. The art fair that I assumed had been rained out by the downpour we’d experienced that afternoon was still going on, so this gave us many new things to investigate.

All buckled in her Kurgo Seat Belt Harness

As we moved through the crowd, Clara walked along with her normal curious excitement, and Freya followed. We passed a few dogs that showed little interest, and Freya did nothing more than exchange sniffs. The sidewalks were narrow and the streets were packed with people so it was difficult to avoid dogs sniffing each other quickly as they walked past. She wasn’t stiff, no hackles were up. All good signs! We moved along.

She didn’t show any reaction other than eyes darting about, but when a canopy rustled in the breeze she stopped in her tracks. She wouldn’t budge. Instead of petting and cooing to her (which is essentially praising and reinforcing the behavior), I touched the tent and dug a treat out of my bag. Freya moved slowly over to me, still extremely wary of the flapping material. This is a sound she will hear a lot inside of a tent, so I needed her to not be terrified of it. Even though she did not want any of the treats, she took a few steps toward me and the canopy and was praised for it. Clara got a treat for sitting and waiting while I worked with Freya, and eventually I had to pick her up and move her a few feet to the side to allow for some people to pass.

Freya’s first city walk

We continued walking, and as we moved through the streets the sound of rustling canopy material was something we encountered again and again. While she seemed concerned by it, she kept moving. She had another moment when we moved past a rolling trash can. The reaction was at first the same as the rustling. She stopped and refused to move. But this time, with a little coaxing and some kids on the other side of the scary trash can, she moved past it. Her reward for being brave was lots of petting and attention from several happy, giggling children. Great job, Freya!

We passed several other dogs with no reaction. At one point I noticed we were approaching two small dogs that seemed to be pretty unruly. They were barking and lunging so I gave them a very wide berth and I couldn’t have been prouder of my dogs as they simply looked at them as if to say “Hey, what’s all the noise about?” It’s times like these when the Watch command comes into play as well. If your dog is watching and focusing on you, they can’t be focused on something else at the same time. You have to be more interesting than whatever it is that is going on around them. This takes some work, but will aid you immensely in training your dog. We will get more into this in an upcoming post/video dealing with obedience training.

Freya Demonstrating the Watch command

Picnic In The Park

The following day the art festival was still going on and the weather was nicer. This meant more people and more dogs. We packed a picnic lunch and returned for another afternoon of socializing. It was rather warm, so I was constantly checking the street with my hand to make sure it wasn’t too hot for Freya’s paws. We have not yet started her with wearing dog boots, but this is one occasion where they would come in handy. Luckily, the sidewalks and roads didn’t get too hot that day but we still continually checked. If the ground is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. Silicone dog booties, neoprene dog booties and dog boots such as Ruffwear Grip Trek Dog Boots made especially for hiking and adventuring can save your dog’s sensitive paw pads.

Cooling off in the shade of a nearby bush

We found a spot near the playground and spread out our blanket, settling down for a nice lunch. Even though we were in the shade and there was a breeze, it was still hot and humid. It’s important when venturing out for the afternoon that you bring plenty of water for your dog to drink. I usually bring a separate water bottle for the dogs. I also tend to bring extra to pour over their backs. There are many options for carrying water for your pup. On excursions such as these I usually bring a Platypus Duo Lock Soft Water Bottle and a Ruffwear Quencher Collapsible Bowl. In a pinch you can simply bring an extra water bottle with a sport spout and squirt the water directly into your dog’s mouth. You must watch your dog closely. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion in dogs (and people) is a real thing, especially here in Florida.

How Often To Socialize Your Puppy

Socialization is critical with puppies. Even if your dog is older, it is still possible to work with them. It is infinitely easier, however, to raise a social pup than it is to retrain a dog that has never been socialized properly or has been allowed to exhibit unruly behaviors in public. Our dogs are a reflection of us. You don’t have to spend hours training every day. A few minutes of good quality time each day will pay off tenfold as your puppy grows. I take puppies out just about every day. If it’s raining or you can’t get out, a few days per week can work if the time is of good quality. Sit on a bench outside a local grocery store and let passers by pet your puppy. Sip a coffee outside at your local cafe and encourage others to greet your puppy. We are lucky in that we live very close to a school. While training young pups we frequently go out near drop off and pick up times to maximize our exposure to children. This also gives us a chance to practice our obedience, as they must learn to sit patiently while being petted and not jump up on people.

There are many opportunities to get your pups out and about and expose them to the world. The lessons we teach them now will serve us well as they grow into adult adventure dogs who are comfortable whatever they encounter. Investing the time now will set your dog up for success on the trail as well as in life.

Happy pup enjoying a picnic

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