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Maybe they should call it "anti-social" media?

Back in July, my husband and I went to a gathering at a friend’s house. This friend is preparing for a one year deployment, and threw a little country/southern style soirée - a good old fashioned pig roast. There was a pretty big crowd there, I’d say 60-70 people, ranging in age from diapers to walkers. I’m not the social butterfly type in big crowds, especially the ones where I only know a handful of people. I’m more of the stand back and observe type, which is how this blog post came to be.

Immediately apparent was the distinction of “groups" in what we’ll call the tween/teen age. It was about a 50/50 split - half of the kids were sitting in a loosely assembled group, all of them (ALL of them!) mesmerized by the phone screen and not communicating with each other. The other half of the kids were playing washers, shooting pool, throwing darts, riding the motorized toys, hobnobbing with the other guests, and being … well, being Social.

So now I have this on my mind pondering the importance of what my parents would call “real life skills”. Then I happen to overhear a conversation in a retail check out line, a few days later. Two young ladies, maybe 14ish, are discussing Boy Stuff. Upset Girl told Friend Girl {whining}, “Yeah but he only Inboxed my FB, he didn’t TEXT ME.” I’m still trying to figure out what Upset Girl means by that when her friend (clearly distressed) replies, “I know. Texting is sooooo much more personal that an inbox.” WHAAAA? I am so out of the loop. I’m still in the dinosaur age of handwritten thank you notes. Or taking a casserole or a bundt to someone with a new baby. That is sooooo much more personal than an inbox or a text ladies! It makes me sad to see the traditions and practices I grew up with fall by the wayside, but the world it’s a ‘changing.

Fortunately I don’t have a teenage daughter - for she would surely be forced to enjoy the outdoors, books, visiting, and be one of very limited screen time. I can’t socialize other people’s kids, but I can socialize the Doodles, and do on a daily basis. Unlike a teen, they don’t complain when you guide and direct their socialization … they enjoy it, as do I. There’s quite a bit of socialization that happens here at GVD before puppy leaves, but even more to be handled by our Adoptive Families. Hopefully this will help someone along in that process....

While pups are with me, they are exposed to a number of different situations and scenarios. The Rules of Seven are a big part of their upbringing. Walk on seven different surfaces, eat from seven different types of containers, eat in seven different locations … you get the idea. Along with that, they see and hear all the typical household sounds daily (dishwasher, tv, vacuum, even periodic silence is necessary). They are introduced to problem solving situations such as a barrier they must learn to cross to come out of their play pen. These practices teach pups to interact with one another (and to act independently), to take initiative, and build confidence.

All GVD’s are Super Dogs too. (But y’all knew that, didn’t ya?) In all seriousness though, they are Super Dogs, as a result of the Early Neurological Stimulation Bio Sensor protocol as described by Dr Carmen Battaglia. This program was developed by the US Military to improve the performance of dogs used for military purposes. The end result and benefits noted: Improved cardio vascular performance (heart rate), stronger heart beats, stronger adrenal glands, more tolerance to stress, and greater resistance to disease. See? GVD Super Dogs :) Read about it - it’s interesting!

Between Rules of Seven and Super Dog, the pups have an awesome start on socialization. Clients have a good solid foundation to build on. But building, it takes. It’s work, but it’s worth-it-work I promise.

Quite often, I have clients tell me they want a dog they can take anywhere. (Don’t we all?!) And by that, they mean they can put their dog in any social situation or environment and know that doggie will be well behaved, and a pleasure. Not a dog who is fearful, introverted and hiding behind their legs. It isn’t fair to expect a dog who has never been in public to behave appropriately, until they’ve been educated on what “appropriate” is. And the only way to get a dog to that point, is to introduce it. Ya gotta start somewhere.

I take at least one or two of my dogs with me nearly everywhere I go, even if it’s just a few miles away to fill up the fuel tank. Short, frequent rides are a great way to start. As they get older (and when they are fully vaccinated), I expand that to different public situations. A word of warning - they might embarrass you the first few outings. I’ll never forget the first time I took Cali to Runnings. (Those of you who don’t know Runnings - it’s a farm and fleet store, similar to Tractor Supply but bigger and busier.) She unloaded from the backseat and leashed up beautifully. She didn’t give as much as a sideways glance to the fella who was pushing his squeaky wheeled cart into the corral next to us. Didn’t faze her one bit. “Oh Yeah!” I’m thinking. This is going to go very well, I can see it already. Cali waddles her big behind across the parking lot, and you can’t wipe the smile off of my face I’m so proud.

Then the SWOOSH automatic doors open and just like that, it’s all over. She plopped down on her considerable rear end and would. not. move. I started with encouragement and treats, and 15 minutes later ended up pleading with her. We stayed like that for quite a while, with shoppers coming and going all around us until I finally had no other option but to pull. She stayed in a sit while I pulled her down the full length of aisle 5, before finally getting the courage to stand up and walk alongside. Even at that young age Cali was a big girl, so you can imagine how ridiculous we must have looked. I wish I had a photo of that to share with you, but my shopping partner (aka husband) was nowhere to be found for picture taking duty - he was mortified and had long since deserted Cali and I. We found him on the plumbing aisle.

These days, the Callerina is one of those “can take her anywhere” dogs. I never worry with her on a leash by my side. It takes work (and some red faced embarrassment), but it sure pays off.

Research which establishments in your area allow pets, and take your pooch out on the town. The first few times, you will be in active training mode, and may not particularly enjoy the outing. This isn’t about having fun as much as it is about exposure and training. You're making an investment so that FUTURE outings are fun. All of them, all the time. The more you go, the better and easier it gets.

If you aren’t sure about an establishment, just ask. Here's a prime example: Yesterday, I had an errand at the AT&T store, and y’all know that is never a quick in-and-out stop. After I got started with the rep, I asked if pets were allowed in the store. She didn’t know, so I watched for the manager and pulled him aside to ask. He looked surprised, but said “Well, I am the manager, so Yes, I guess we do allow pets in the store.” Off I go to fetch Frankie out of my running truck. Friendly Frankie bounds in with me and literally stole the heart of every person in that store before it was all said and done. She wasn’t even embarrassed that I took her out in public in her panties. (Don’t laugh at her drawers y’all. She’s in heat.)

Here's The Frankster giving the AT&T store manager a high five and then a big ten. She's such a showoff.

Tractor Supply, Home Depot and Lowes generally allow pets, but call and ask first. Walmart does NOT. Yes I learned that the hard way (carrying a 10 wk old puppy) and was promptly escorted to the door. Georgia is a regular at TJ Maxx, and knows to lie down and relax when we get to the shoes aisle. We’re gonna be a while.

Below, Georgia Girl enjoying a little Momma time with me in Tractor Supply. She samples every single toy before making her selection. Takes forever, but funny to watch!

Teach Sit and use it consistently consistently consistently. At a very young age (8 weeks) I teach all my dogs to sit, and then they learn that they must sit to greet, to be greeted and to receive affection. I don’t want the worry of my dogs jumping up on anyone. Some of my babies are pretty stout, and could seriously hurt a young child they were “excited” to see. When they come to me, they immediately plop into a Sit by my foot and look up waiting for approval. It’s very easy to teach, and you’ll be thankful you did. A HUGE part of good canine manners.

You've probably figured out by now that Doodles are people magnets. I am stopped multiple times everywhere I go with a dood ... sometimes by folks who don't know how to approach an unfamiliar dog. I take that opportunity to train people as well as the doggie. Learn your baby's body language, and know when they are overstimulated, fearful, nervous or just generally uncomfortable. Panting, excessive yawning and refusal to make eye contact are three big indicators Fido isn't feeling so secure.

A nervous dog can be unpredictable so as a responsible pet owner, you need to be prepared to recognize it and buffer the situation. Always have a firm hold on the leash. Always remain alert and in control. You must be ready to intervene at any given time should it become necessary.

Case in point: Franklin's Thelma on the Run. Thelma is a five month old poodle we're raising as a future sheepadoodle momma. Her counterpart Louise (same age) has never met a stranger, but Thelma … she is a bit prudent. We had a client visit last week - sweet family with two darling daughters. Not a shy bone in either body with these girls! So here’s Thelma, already a little cautious with strangers … especially the miniature squealing laughing active busy little girl kind. Busy little girl kind that realllllly wants to touch the pretty feather bow in Thelma’s ear. Thelma’s eyes opened WIDE and her entire posture changed. My husband and i made eye contact at the same millisecond with a telepathic {get between the dog and the child now!}. Which I did and all is well.

The easy thing at that point would’ve been for me or JM to leash or crate Thelma, enjoy our client visit, and move on. But if you ever want her to get past that timidity (I do), then you must work. I talked to the girls first (brilliant young things! like little sponges absorbing every instruction I gave) - I taught them how to approach Thelma, how to greet her, what tone of voice to use, eye contact, the works. When the girls first arrived, Franklin’s Thelma on the Run was on the run indeed. She was terrified and trying to escape. Within thirty minutes, Thelma would willingly approach these girls. Fifteen minutes later, the girls had her doing Sit, Down and HighFive all by hand commands and no verbalization. Yep, pretty cool.

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