Over the past ten months of fostering dogs for ICHBA, I’ve learned that nothing in this world gives me more satisfaction than transforming animals that had been ditched like trash or treated like punching bags into well-behaved human companions.
Until Adriana came into my life, I never had the opportunity to know an animal since one week old, but I have big plans for this little white puppy from the ghetto; she’ll be trained, starting yesterday, as a therapy dog that will take an active role in our local Tennessee community in any capacity needed, whether it’s visiting old folks at nursing homes or children at the library that need furry friends to read to.
The first step in Adriana’s training: I am going to socialize the SHIT out of her. When I say socialize, I mean exposing her to as much stimuli as possible in positive environments, so that she doesn’t react by barking, biting, lunging, or other bad behaviors when encountering new situations. I want her to feel confident and comfortable anywhere I take her.
It pains me to say it, but I rank socialization even above exercise when training a young dog, because really, behaving properly in society can be a case of life or death for many homeless animals. A stray dog that is aggressive or overly timid has a slim chance of surviving, particularly in the rural south.
People often ask me how to raise a dog that acts appropriately in public, and the answer is really pretty easy. Take them everywhere you possibly can, all while introducing them to as many new people, situations, and animals as possible.
Some examples of how I’ve been socializing Adriana: I let any stranger or friend that asks to pet or pick her up. I even encourage it if I see a child acting shy but obviously wanting to approach us. Same with dogs, any friendly pup that expresses an interest gets to sniff Adriana and she gets to sniff them back.
Many dogs get carsick so Adriana has been riding in my car, even if it’s only to get gas or a gallon of milk, since she was three-weeks-old, and she’s already a great passenger.
I walk her daily on the Springfield Greenway, where we encounter a wide range of normal daily activities and creatures, including other dogs, bridges, traffic, car horns, wildlife, a creek, bikers, skateboarders, joggers, etc.
We’ve stopped by the Dairy Queen for a FREE pup cup, the Tractor Supply Company for a FREE Beggin’ Strip, and rode through the bank drive-thru for a FREE doggie biscuit (not all on the same day). It’s not always easy, especially for people with full-time gigs, but I try to fit Adriana into as much of my errand-running routine as possible.
But…her big socialization test comes this weekend, when Mason, Adriana, and I will fly to Seattle for a much-needed vacation, which will entail traveling by foot and car down the Pacific Coast, meeting friends in Yachats, OR and ending up in the Redwoods near Crescent City, CA.
I apologize in advance, but the next ten days will be very slow on this site. In fact, for a while we won’t even have cell phone service, let alone a WI-FI connection, which I admit I’m pretty stoked about.
A pictorial essay (which is freaking adorable) of Meadow with Adriana and Livia is scheduled for mid-week, and hopefully I’ll be able to periodically update all y’all on Adriana’s Pacific Coast adventures. I have high hopes of introducing her to a seal.
Thanks for reading this site. It means the world to me. And thanks for your patience over the next week or so.