As fall brings cooler weather, flip-flops and sundresses are replaced by clunky boots and heavy coats. Soon decorative skeletons and ghosts will swing from trees and pumpkins and corn stalks will decorate porches. For a puppy that has not experienced colder weather, there are many new things in store. By anticipating these upcoming changes and training accordingly, we can help ensure that your puppy has the best chance of feeling comfortable when they happen.
You can start introducing some of the trappings of cooler weather and impending holidays by making a trip to your closet and attic. Pull out your heavy winter coat, boots and scarves and let your puppy inspect them. Gives lots of treats for approaching and interacting with there objects. Then pick them up, move them around, put them on. Be sure to keep your puppy in a happy frame of mind by keeping the reinforcement high and keeping the puppy from being overwhelmed.If your puppy exhibits signs of discomfort or fear, work on acclimating him to those objects carefully. Never force your puppy to approach, but continue exposing them to the object at a distance that is comfortable enough for him to relax and take treats and work. Work on slowly decreasing the distance, always remaining in the puppy’s comfort zone.
Thinking through the new things that are about to enter your puppy’s world will help you avoid surprises in the future. Of course, we can not anticipate everything that will happen. The best we can do is work hard ahead of time and take surprises in stride. If we encounter something new, say while out on a walk, be prepared to stop and take time to acclimate your puppy to the situation. Give the space and time needed for him to adjust. Keep treats on hand to take advantage of these opportunities to reinforce the puppy. If your puppy is hesitant or fearful of the new object, slow down and increase the distance between him and the new object and slowly allow him to check it out. Give lots of reinforcement (treats and praise are good choices) for looking and moving closer. You may need to make several passes or search out similar objects to give your puppy many opportunities to encounter what he is unsure of at a comfortable distance and work towards closing in on our puppy’s terms.
A concerted effort towards getting your puppy many socialization opportunities is going to be time well spent. The changes that come with each season are just one of the many ways we can anticipate new experiences and use them to build on the social repertoire of our dogs. Every positive encounter with a new person, place, and thing helps build a stable foundation of skills that will be apparent with each new encounter that your puppy has. Once the foundation has been laid, you can build on and maintain these experiences throughout your puppy’s life.