Keeping these puppy socialization diaries has been a lot of fun for me. I’m hoping to eventually use some of this as a framework for part of a puppy raising book I’d like to write. I’ve also noticed that the puppy socialization diaries keep me honest – knowing that some of my friends follow Cuba’s adventures gives me incentive to make sure he has new experiences and adventures every day. If I slack, all of my readers will know about it!
I’ve also noticed that it seems as though Cuba’s adventures go in waves. We have some days where we work together at home a lot, because I need to get work done, because Jim has the van, or because of crappy weather. I try to alternate at-home days where we socialize Cuba to various things that make living with him in our home easier (household sounds and activities, husbandry, etc.) and on-the-town adventures where I focus on things that make voyaging out into the world with Cuba a more pleasant experience for both of us. So far, we’re both liking this schedule.
I’m also very luck in that I have a wonderful bounty of socialization opportunities within a few blocks of my house. I have a nursing home, a public park, an elementary school, and a psychiatric hospital all within a ten minute walk of my home. Believe me, I take advantage of all of these options as often as possible!
Jim and I are hoping to move out of the city and into a rural area as soon as we are able. Ironically enough, when we do find our “countrified utopia” and raise our next puppy in that environment, I’ll probably still be traveling back to my current neighborhood multiple times a week to provide that puppy with the socialization opportunities one cannot get in a rural area.
Yesterday we took a trip up to the Greater Binghamton Health Center, known locally as the “Psych Center” and to others as a campus of The State University of New York’s Upstate Medical University.
While we didn’t see as many people as I’d like (we probably saw about thirty people and met approximately 1/3 of them), we had a great socialization experience nonetheless. Cuba got to walk up and down concrete ramps, run around off his leash shoving his face down into groundhog holes with Mokie, weave to follow a hand target between the railing supports, practice his sits, downs, recall, focus, name response, and loose leash walking, and all that fun puppy stuff.
At home, we’ve been having a hard time teaching Cuba to go down the stairs. He learned to go up our stairs very quickly, but is obviously nervous about going down the stairs in our home. (If your dog is scared to go down the stairs, I do have a blog entry scheduled to publish on this topic later this week on the Dogster Behavior and Training blog.) I think there are a number of factors at work here – lack of physical coordination, and the fact that our wooden stairs are not very wide and may be a little slippery for his taste. The Psych Center provided us a great way to get around that, as they have a lot of concrete steps (better traction) that are both wider and lower in depth than our stairs at home. Cuba took to these stairs quite readily and did a nice job, going down as many as four stairs at a time. This is huge progress for him, and gives me hope that I will not be carrying an 80-lb, six month old Saint Bernard down the stairs in a few months’ time.
Because he was a messy monster after his raw meal, we also had another “show dog night” at the Lomonaco household. Cuba was FANTASTIC for his bath. When we first brought him home to bathe him, the entire time he was in the tub he was scrambling to escape. Yesterday in his bath he sat or stood very nicely. Jim washed while I did some desensitization and counter conditioning with a can of Merrick’s “Wild Buffalo Grill” canned dog food. I was so proud and obviously, tuna fish = bath tub has been a successful learning tool for Cuba who is now infinitely more comfortable than he was when it comes to getting washed up! After his bath, Cuba also got towel-dried, blown dry, combed, brushed with the slicker, had his teeth and gums rubbed, ears wiped, eyes wiped, and nails slightly trimmed with the Dremel. Good boy!
After all this excitement, what’s a puppy to do but take a nap on dad’s belly?