My Ah-Ha Moment

Since I so enjoy working with puppies, early socialization
is always front and center in my classes and with my clients. I’ve always sort
of felt that my second dog, Woodrow was a little lacking in this area. You know
how it is, you put all your energy into your first dog and then when the second
one comes along you let things slide a little because, after all, he’s got the
older dog to learn from and play with! He’s now four and for the last 2 years
I’ve been working diligently on exposing him to EVERYTHING in our society. I
can honestly say that he’s made some wonderful improvements. He’s much more
accepting of new dogs and children, he’s confident in new situations; he’s
outgoing and has an enormous zest for life…we always say he’s “livin’
large”! So, on a recent walk in a place that we’ve walked since he was a
few months old, we encountered a man wearing a hat, pushing a bicycle through
the covered bridge. Woodrow completely freaked out. He barked and lunged at the
end of his leash. I had all I could do to pull him back to a spot where we
could get off the sidewalk and let the man pass. A stark comparison to the
older dog’s reaction of wagging and melting as he always does for new people.
Once out of the bridge, the man stopped to talk to me and I guess Woodrow
realized that it was just a human, wearing a hat and pushing a bicycle…he was
fine, all loose, wagging his tail and displaying his best greeting
behavior.

So what does this have to do with early socialization? I had
a major “ah ha” moment about what socialization is all about…yes,
exposing your puppy to as much as you can is one of the best things you can do
for him. BUT, it goes way beyond that, I think that what puppies are really
learning is the art of adaptability. Learning how to cope with our ever
changing environment, learning how to deal with new and sometimes strange
things appearing out of nowhere.

I know I’ve been taught this from day one and read it from
numerous experts in the dog world, but until that particular moment on a walk
I’ve done hundreds of times I guess I didn’t truly get it! This changes
everything…

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My Ah-Ha Moment

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