I feel like we failed Isis in a lot of ways. I’m learning now that you’re supposed to expose your puppy to everything that could possibly “scare” it later in life before he or she is four months old.
I wish we’d taken Isis to puppy pre-school and puppy kindergarten, instead of waiting until she was four months old to take her to the school where she eventually displayed her first signs of aggression toward other dogs, and where they recommended a shock collar. That’s what finally turned me off. But I did listen when they suggested a prong collar, and even found it effective in teaching her to sit and lie down. (Or so I thought at the time. I didn’t realize at the time that licking her nose was a stress signal.) It helped me walk her, but it didn’t really teach her to walk beside me without pulling. She still struggles with that. If we had started clicker training her from the beginning, maybe we wouldn’t have needed to jerk her down with a prong collar to get her to learn how to lie down.
If we’d let her play with other puppies from the time she was 9 weeks old, instead of enrolling her in a class where puppies waited in the car and were brought in the classroom one at a time – because it’s too “distracting” to try to work with multiple dogs in the same room – maybe she would have the play skills that would allow her to play with the puppy who has now lived in the same house with her, separated by baby gates, for nearly five weeks.
Then there’s Leo, who has a mellower temperament to start. I’m not afraid of exposing him to disease by letting him out of the house. He comes to work with me and meets new people every day. He goes to puppy pre-school and next week we start kindergarten. It hasn’t even been very much work to expose him to things like fireworks, workmen on the roof of my office (a/c repairman yesterday), bicycles, motorcycles, traffic. A man in a wheelchair came out of one of the neighboring offices to meet Leo. I never in a million years would have orchestrated a meet and greet with a wheelchair, and now Leo’s been exposed to it. I haven’t even tried to think of things to expose him to, since so many things have just come our way.
On the drive to work this morning, there was some mist on the windshield. I flicked the wiper and Leo alerted to it. Interesting! I upped the speed and Leo’s eyes followed it as it went back and forth. Hadn’t occurred to me to desensitize him to the windshield wiper, but I could picture a dog, born in late April, socialized all summer, completely freaking out come rainy season whenever the windshield wipers were turned on. How difficult it would be to untrain a dog that barks maniacally at the windshield wipers.
Nothing much seems to freak Leo out, so maybe it wouldn’t have been an issue for him, but nice to have crossed that off the list I haven’t bothered to create.