Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Socializing Fern

Whew, a break in the weather.  After yet another hot humid day, the promised cool front moved in and it's lovely this morning.  Unfortunately, the changing weather pattern didn't result in much rain which we desperately need.  The humidity dropped before the temperature did, and when I was working in the yard after dinner, the temp was 89 but felt like 85 because the humidity was only 21%.

On Thursday Fern starts puppy classes.  It's going to be a busy time, as Thursday evening is also fish club, and I need to be there as well.  Fern's class begins at 6:00, and the club meeting at 7:15.  Tight.  Because she'll be tired, and is used to being crated, Fern will  be fine in the car while I'm in the meeting.

Fern had a great time at the dog shows last weekend, and it was a marvelous opportunity to expose her to a variety of new things.  It's important that pups be introduced to as many new people and novel situations as possible.  Pups that sit home and grow up in the yard never develop appropriate social skills with dogs and people, and are either overly stimulated or fearful when they encounter new situations.  The time period between 4 weeks and 4 months is particularly important, and a pup who does not receive appropriate socialization during that period can never catch up on what he has missed.

Fern has a middle-of-the road sort of temperament.  She is neither fearless nor fearful, just sensibly cautious. She's socially attracted to both dogs and people, but will occasionally startle in new situations or act overwhelmed if too much is happening at once.  She recovers quickly, so the goal is to introduce her to as many different situations as possible.  If properly socialized she will grow up to have an ideal companion-dog personality, and should make a good show dog as well.

Last weekend Fern was exposed to lots of vehicle noises at our motel, and by the end of the weekend was oblivious to the roar of trucks and buses when waiting to cross the street.   At the dog show she met dogs of all ages - but it's important that she meet friendly dogs.  A bad experience with an aggressive dog will leave her cautious about meeting new dogs.  She spent the weekend in a motel room, sleeping in her own crate, but playing and exploring the room with Argus. Walking down the long hallway and up and down the carpeted stairways was another new experience.  At the dog show she was walked or carried, depending on the situation, and if she seemed a bit overwhelmed when too much was happening, she was picked up or taken back to her crate in the car.  When a pup gets a bit nervous on the floor, picking them up so they can meet people face level, rather than surrounded by a forest of legs, will make a big difference.  Because most dog people understand the need for socializing pups, there is never a shortage of people willing to interact with pups at dog shows!

Fern's socialization continued over the weekend, when I picked up my mother for a picnic.  Pups need to meet people of all ages.  Children and seniors smell, sound and act different than your average adult.  She loved my mother, who was only too willing to give Fern extra attention.  When I took mom home, Fern went along to my mother's senior building, where she got to ride in the elevator (something she will often do on show weekends), and walk down the long hallway beside my mother's walker (another novel experience).  We gave her a chance to explore mom's apartment too, another totally new place for her.

Definitely a good weekend of Socializing Fern.  No need to take her to more new places for a couple of days, but tonight we'll go for another walk on leash - wish I could say her leash manners were great, but that is not yet the case!  Young pups need to visit a couple of new places every week.

At least once a day I put Fern on the grooming table and we do some stacking - for food of course - and I examine her all over and check her bite.  Then we sit on the deck and work on sit, down and watch - also for food.  Takes only a few minutes, but it will give her a head start in puppy class, and if she should get nervous, we have the familiar commands to fall back on.

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