Recently I went to a dog show where I had enough time to sit and watch the other competitors. The show offered conformation, temperament testing, bite work and obedience. This was a mastiff only show. The temperament testing is especially fun. You are not given any information as to what will be involved in the temperament testing, so you can’t practice for it. This year’s test included obstacles such as heeling over a wooden pallet, crossing metal grate and having your dog stand on tire. While watching the temperament testing it was clear obedience skills had been taught, but it was apparent to me how to many breeders, trainers and pet owners are skipping one of the most fun, easy and critical parts of socialization environmental confidence building.
At Kentucky Canine Coach I believe in PREVENTING unwanted behavior by building confidence, manners and skills during puppyhood.
I encourage my puppy owners coming to class to try new obstacles each week. I want to make sure our dogs are comfortable in most scenarios whether you’re getting on an elevator, walking across the slippery floor or getting your dog onto a scale at the vet clinic environmental confidence-building plays a role as how confident your dog is in the future. Dogs need to be comfortable in the world around them or won’t matter how much time you spend teaching obedience.
Here is a check list for getting your dog confident:
Playgrounds, try to go when there are less then 4 kids playing. Yes, we know you want to expose your dog to kids, but if there’s 25 kids on the playground your puppy is going to be overwhelmed. To much can go wrong. Allowing your puppy to become overwhelmed would do more harm then good.
Box stores, such as Home Depot or JAXs Farm. Again, you don’t go when they are busy. Your puppy is already going to be exposed to automatic open doors, slippery floors, bright lights and if you’re smart you’ll find some obstacles in the store like encouraging your puppy to jump on a rolly cart or look for treats under some shelves.
Plus, the employees and customers shopping will want to meet your puppy too.
The Great Outdoors, pull up Google Maps and find a lake that you can hike to. Make sure that it is not too far. Most young puppies can’t keep up on long hikes. Also pick a place where there aren’t many dogs. When introducing your puppy to water use toys and treata. Don’t force your puppy into the water by pulling. Let them wade around and get comfortable. If you have an older dog they may follow your older dog into the water. Encourage them to walk across fallen logs and balance on rocks.
Livestock, we recognize that not everybody has access to livestock. If you look online you can find some sort of livestock event near you or at least close enough you can make a day trip out of it. If there’s a horse show in your area bring your puppy. Keep your puppy on a leash and keep it close to you. Bring lots of treats and be respectful of livestock’s space. A lot of livestock owners aren’t going to watch out for your puppy, so make sure you ask first.
Machinery, many adult dogs are not comfortable around loud machinery. It is important to get your dog comfortable with these types of things too. You never know if you’ll be at a dog show and a tractor will go by or you’ll be walking down the side walk and a loud truck will go bye. Taking your puppy to Harley Dealership, truck stop or lumber yard would all be great options to introduce your puppy to focusing on you around machinery. Start off far away letting your puppy see from a distance.
If your puppy ever seems overwhelmed during this process don’t push your puppy. Allow your puppy to observe from father away from what is scaring him. If you still see fear or fear is lasting for more then one week please contact a professional dog trainer to help you with the process. This could be a red flag to bigger problems down the road or it could be a sensitive fear period.
Getting your dog into theses environments will go a long way in helping to ensure you have a great pet that can enjoy going places with you or to have a outstanding working or trial dog. Don’t skip this important step and be sure to have fun and get creative.