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Posts Tagged ‘dog socialization’

Tonight is my short night. I get the morning shift with Ruger, who seems to think six in the morning is an acceptable time to get out of bed and eat. Ruger is not retired.My husband and I switch early morning shifts because we are retired and six o’clock in the morning is… way too early for either of us. What were we thinking when we got a puppy?

Oh, hell, what were we thinking when we had children? They didn’t sleep in, either. But we got revenge on them when they became parents. And then we got a puppy.

Today was a big day for our ten-week old guy. The governor (bless her heart, said in the sweetest Southern drawl I can manage) loosened restrictions on pubs and restaurants once again. I won’t go into the whole mask debate (I’m pro-mask & safety precautions) but COVID is killing small businesses. This is just a reality. The loosened restrictions mean we can once again go to our favorite small breweries and drink a few pints – as long as we are outside in the elements. That’s excellent news for one of our favorite places to go as it is entirely an outdoor setting. We don’t usually go out there in the winter because of the one word people in the Willamette Valley and north into Seattle know well: RAIN. Rain is colder than just cold and sunny days. Rain permeates, even when you are huddled under a canopy with a propane heater. Rain drips, is cold, and often comes sideways.

But we’re in a dry stretch. And that means sunshine on picnic tables because we’re far enough north that the sun comes at a slant through the surrounding Douglas fir trees and warms the tables. I also dress in layers: stretch pants, jeans, a blouse, a sweater, a vest, a down jacket, a huge and warm winter scarf. I wear a hat. Double up the socks. And I carry a fuzzy blanket. I wear fingerless gloves.

Then there’s the puppy. He’s only been in the car to ride here from Idaho. He’s lived with us for three weeks and has had zero chance to meet other dogs and has only met a couple neighbors. He’s met two of our friends, but no other house guests. We’re all on lock down number something or other and we’re all cautious about going out. We have different opinions about all of this but we still wear masks, use hand sanitizer, and try to stay six feet apart.

If you asked me about children and socialization (the “S” word in homeschooling circles) I would tell you to just take your children places. Let them meet people, young and old and from as many cultures as you can expose them to. They don’t need school to socialize: they need social gatherings with a variety of people, customs, and manners. They need real life.

Puppies do, too. I used to take my English Setter rescue (Harvey) to Home Depot to just walk around the store. He had to take in all the noises, all the people, and he had to accept little children running up to him to ask if they could pet him. In return, I have spent a few dollars at Home Depot. They allow dogs, I don’t care what else you have to say about them. Harvey was also excellent on a leash (not at first, mind you, he had to learn to heel).

Ruger has never ridden in a dog carrier and he threw a fit about it today. He also puked. Like my English Setter, Ruger gets car sick. All bedding we purchase is washable. I have sudden empathy with my parents who had three children, only one of which puked often in the car. Me. I never ride in the back of the van. (See how I made that about me?)

I took a pig’s ear with us (American made), his puppy bed (he’s outgrown it), and a fuzzy blanket just for Ruger. I took doggie treats for Ruger, jerky & crackers for us. My husband has never been much for walking dogs on a leash but he took Ruger for the first potty run out in the huge dog field out beyond the brewery. Ruger, who has been a pill on the leash to date, was extraordinarily well behaved the first couple of hours. It was all new and chewing on a pig’s ear gave him time to digest the noise (highway and cars and Harley-Davidson motorcycles). Friends arrived and he remembered them.

Strangers stopped and asked to meet him. He met other dogs, some interested in him and some not so interested (but not aggressive). He met men and women. He met little kids. I took him for a late walk in the grassy off-leash area and he did his duty like a good boy. He was proud and started to get bold. He never once barked at a person or another dog. He got into his dog carrier and rode home without a peep. The only people he jumped up on were my husband and I and we quickly pushed him down.

In short, Ruger had an amazing and exhausting day. He sacked out on the way home. He played hard a couple more times (most recently in the loft with me) and then crashed just as hard. He’s learning to fetch, which none of our prior dogs ever managed to do. He still eats socks, shoes, scarfs, and cardboard. He loves playing soccer with the big blue ball our grandson, Eli, picked out. He’s neither aggressive or too shy with other dogs. He likes people.

Best of all, he’s brought laughter back into our home.

This is really more of a testimonial of Ruger’s first socialization outing, but I want to throw in a tip: if you have a puppy please do it a favor and find a way to socialize it even with all the COVID restrictions. Go to an outdoor pub (order a soda if you don’t drink alcohol) that is dog friendly. Find a reason to shop at Home Depot (don’t just go there to walk your dog and DO NOT take your dog there to piddle and poo). Dog parks are Okay but I don’t really trust the other dog owners – that’s at your own risk.

Pick up your dog’s poo. This has nothing to do with the post above but some people really need this in their face. Pick up your dog’s poo.

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