Thursday, April 1, 2010

Socializing: Environment

We got Zuko out and about right after he came home to live with us, but didn't let him interact with other dogs. The breeder and the vet both felt early socialization was more important than him not having had his 16 week shots and that overall, the risk of him getting sick was low. The risk of not socializing a Shiba early is high, so there is the trade-off. We didn't let him really interact with other dogs or roll in their poop, but our building has another dog and the owner is a complete bitch who never cleans up after her dog in the backyard. So - he was exposed and never suffered harm.

After his full shots, we went everywhere together. We live in San Francisco on a busy street that was, at that time, being torn up by jackhammers. So early on, Zuko was socialized and exposed to all sorts of loud noises and crazy things - big trucks, buses, people with shopping carts, people with walkers, people in hats and hardhats, umbrellas, bicycles and so on and so on. We took him shopping with us to Union Square which is mass chaos and took him in the stores. We took him to a New Years Eve ball. We went to every outdoor cafe within walking distance - often.

It all paid off. Big buses can roll by and he doesn't even flinch. We walk along busy streets with no problem. He has never peed in a store. He is a perfect angel at cafes. I am not sure how we did this one, except I suspect it was the positive reinforcement. When we go to a cafe, I take a bag of treats. When he sits nice or lays down - he gets one. If he is super good, he might get a bit of our brunch. He must have made the connection early on. Also, he is a huge people-watcher and loves to sit there and watch all the people and dogs go by. I have to warn you: taking a Shiba to a cafe is a magnet for admirers. Seriously - we get people who stop and stare, who point or just start talking to us! It is so funny the things people say sometimes.


If you live in a quiet, rural area with a Shiba, I strongly recommend taking them to the busy city areas often during the 18 week socialization period. Essentially, anything a puppy has not been around by the age of 18 weeks can cause a fear reaction in them later. If you ever watched the Shiba Puppy Cam, you noticed Mr. and Mrs. Shoes would open and umbrella and just put it in the play area. They did all sorts of things to help socialize the puppies early on, before they even left to their forever homes!

-- Posted by Zuko's people

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