Life has a way of changing on us, it is truly the only constant. Sometimes we initiate the change, which can be pretty cool. And then some times change happens whether we are ready or not. Some glide through change gracefully, for most it’s more of a bumpy ride until one adjusts.
For our dogs, change is only positive if we have prepared them. By prepared I mean introduce them and socialized them to a world far bigger than the one at home. Socialization at a young age or when you get your dog is far more than just important, it is preparing your dog for the future. In other words you are investing in your dog by introducing them kindly and considerately to people, places, things, events, and other well socialized dogs. Exposing them to experiences in a positive way and keeping their world broad and open.
One of the more common scenarios I have seen over the past ten years is a very well meaning person that comes to a point in their relationship with their dog where they want to do more, maybe a dog sport, maybe therapy, or maybe move into a different living situation with new people. The dog on the other hand has had limited exposure to life outside of the home, and if there were outings they were to dog parks. Some dogs literally jump at the chance to do more, most however have some level of stress as they were never prepared for change, let alone new and different. And some dogs just don’t have the coping skills to transition at all into the new change, change that is being made for them by their owner.
While this may seem like a lot, remember that nothing will stay exactly the same in your life over the next fifteen years. Prepare now so that the transition for you and your dog goes much more smoothly.
About three years ago Ocean went into renal failure due to the administration of drugs she was not supposed to have. After visiting a teaching veterinary hospital, I decided to do home care with her during her fluid therapy as she trusts me to do anything with her, we have worked hard for that relationship. I had to learn how to administer IV and subcutaneous fluids in a matter of five minutes.
Did I prepare her for fluid therapy when she was younger? No. But because I have taught Ocean many skills over the years, her and I work seamlessly as a team. I asked for a down on her pillow, asked for relax which is head down, asked for pa so she would extend her leg to me, and then ready which is the word for me starting something. Although this was change for us all, we were able to work together on new and different, I could take most of the stress out of the situation. I would massage her during each session, and then we would go for a light walk afterwards. On some level I hope I brought some understanding to her that this was going to be a good thing in the long run. I am happy to say that she is ten and healthy!
- Take your dog to new and different places that allow dogs. Visit hardware stores, outdoor restaurants if your dog has a good settle, book stores, walking malls, etc.
- Train often and train creatively. Introduce new tricks and new behaviors all of the time. Keep training fresh and fun. Create a dog that trusts learning from you.
- Expose your dog to new people, new places, new things, new events, and other well socialized dogs on a regular basis, especially when young. Give them exposure!
- Give your dog skills. Whether a dog sport is in your future or not, trying a little of this and a little of that builds your dogs knowledge and skills. Try a core conditioning class, doggie yoga, foundation agility or body awareness, freestyle and tricks, treibball, etc.
- Prepare your dog to work in new locations with you, not just in your yard. Practice your skills on a sidewalk, in a park, on a trail, in a store.
- Crate train your dog. This may seem odd, but having a dog that has a safe place, and it’s constant, and they can count on it, helps with transitions. You can bring a crate into a facility for training and the constant is the crate, while introducing new skills and new experiences. Bringing a crate into a hotel room is for safety and also for being a polite guest, but it creates a constant place during travel, which is change. Crates are great management tools, and if conditioned properly, create a place of calm and of safety. And it is a constant in a world of changes brought ton by owners.
- Expose your dog to new sounds, new smells, new sights. These can be little outings.
- Have friends over to your home so your dog gets used to other people in the house in a positive way.
- The more you teach, the more you can ask from your dog.
Think of the future and prepare, your dog will appreciate your efforts! Nancy