Stimulation

Socialization Plus chapter

Take a moment to look at stimulating environments from your dog's perspective: fast movements, human activity that is far more elevated than she's used to experiencing, and a sense of disconnection from you—especially when you're one of the participants. If bringing your dog with you to activities is new, don't expect a smooth transition. Your dog will need your help to maintain her sense of stability as you go from place to place.

Dogs are territorial by nature: if they lived in the wild, they would not travel outside a given zone, known as their territory. Within their zone, they'd know each tree, rock, and field intimately. Adapting to sudden changes in the world does not come naturally to them. And yet exposure and socialization is something they tolerate and enjoy; in turn, you can look courageous and brave since you'll be leading your dog into these situations. Make a list of stimulating activities or places that you are likely to experience with your dog—after-school games, parades, picnics, parks, train stations, etc.—and think about how you can prepare your dog for each of them.

• When you bring your dog to social activities, use WAIT at the car, and SIT-STAY and HEEL to teach her to stay by your side. If the opportunity arises to greet another person or dog, do so in a civilized manner: have your dog WAIT and then release her with GO SAY HELLO. When time is up, call her to HEEL.

• If you live near a train station, socialize your dog to the experience and teach her to stay clear of the tracks. Work with her at increasingly close distances to the platform, using HEEL and STAY to help organize her focus and contain her anxiety or excitability. To teach her to stay clear of the tracks, take her out when the train is set to arrive. As it pulls near, run away from the train shouting as though you've been hit by a bullet. Do not look at your dog while doing so. Repeat until your dog knows to run from the tracks.

• A veterinarian's office can be a super-stimulating place. The smells are familiar but often repellent. There are often multiple species to be found. And most dogs learn early on that they don't want to be there. Bring a familiar blanket and toys so that your dog has a more positive association. Have your dog WAIT at the door until she calms down. Spread her blanket underneath you in the waiting room and instruct your dog UNDER. Use STAY if she fidgets. When you go to the exam room, spread the blanket on the examination table, and use your words for familiarity and focus.

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