Photo: @mr_jack_the_lab at I Like You in Minneapolis
This is a guest post from Danielle Lindblom of The Adventure Dog Blog and The Adventure Puppy Club.
Everyone tells you that your puppy needs to be socialized. It’s almost a buzzword. Socialize! Or else! Go everywhere, do everything. But what should you actually DO? Here’s a quick guide for fun activities you can do in a dog-friendly store with your pup (read: it’s stupid cold outside and you don’t really want to go for a walk). All will benefit your dog, no matter what age, and will help to create a more well-mannered, calm companion on your shopping trips and other adventures.
- Bring treats. Now, don’t roll your eyes. Most dogs are very food motivated. Using this, we can make the experience a positive one and relieve any potential stress from the new environment. We can also provide rewards for good behaviors, making them stronger and more reliable.
- Reward for focus. When your dog turns his attention to you, immediately praise and provide a treat. Pet-supply stores, hardware stores, and other shops are incredibly distracting environments! You’re competing for your dog’s attention with other shoppers, new smells, and lots of noise. Make yourself exciting by walking backward and encouraging your puppy to follow you. Lean forward and call your dog. Be happy! Have a puppy party (i.e., tons of treats and praise) when your pup locks his eyes on yours and celebrate his great decision to focus on you instead of that delicious smelly bone in the aisle.
- Explore different, novel surfaces. Make it an adventure! Encourage your puppy to put his paws on anything new and different you see (without disrupting store merchandise). Do not force the situation, but rather encourage her to try it out and reward for exploration and curiosity. It’s important that we always allow puppies the choice to say no to a scary-for-them situation. Doing so greatly reduces the chance of developing behavior problems and fear. Have fun and put your paws on that!
- Meet people. Quiet, non-exciting people are the best for your puppy to meet because of their calm energy. Gentlemen are great for this! Have the greeter give your puppy a treat and allow your puppy to approach at his own speed. Most will enthusiastically offer puppy kisses, but some may be shy. That’s ok! Make sure every encounter is stress-free and positive. Remember, we want our puppy to LIKE people in his adult life.
These tips will help you create a happy adventure dog that can go anywhere and do anything with you. Always be a good dog ambassador: only take your well-behaved dog into stores, ask permission before approaching other dogs and people, and clean up any accidents. If you have a scared or overly excited dog or puppy, please work with a professional dog trainer to improve these behaviors and create good experiences for your four-legged friend.
Danielle and her two Border Collies provide monthly free guided hikes around the Twin Cities and write trail guides and tips for adventure dogs. For more info on adventuring with your dog or puppy, check out The Adventure Dog Blog and The Adventure Puppy Club for positive, safe socialization experiences.