If you’re following our Socialisation Training series, things have been going quite well and our pups are making good progress!
I posted a brief update at the end of my last blog post, as a few of you did reach out to me with concerns about that first walking environment. Ever since we stopped walking at that incredibly busy little park, I’m happy to report that things have made slow and steady progress – for all of us.
In all of just 6 training walks the difference feels like night and day from where we started.
Where we’re doing the training walks:
We’re currently walking at two different places:
- One residential – in a safe neighbourhood where all the dogs are behind fences.
- The second is at a large vlei (wetland) that is close to us (Flamingo Vlei for those in Cape Town)
We do two walks per week, and usually try to alternate, where possible. The residential walk adds some external excitement to their walks, and the vlei is a completely different environment with distractions of its own kind (birds, smells, noises). At both locations we usually have a group of about 3 dogs walk with us. On residential walks the group is on-lead and we all walk together. At the vlei the group is off-lead (with ours on-lead) and they come and go around our dogs. We also try to mix up the groups each week, so they also get more interaction with “new” dogs, and not just “used to” the same group of friends.
Our two have started getting quite comfortable and seem to settle within about 2-5 min of walking with the group, and within that time period are sniffing the other dogs and interacting with them as if they’ve always been there.
Shakti still doesn’t quite know how to verbalise her discomfort when a dog spends too much time in her space and still comes off as a little pushy (barking aggressively, lunging & snarling) – but this is so much better than where we started off. A lot of this is quite normal dog speak, she just has to learn to “tone her ‘shouting’ down to a ‘conversation’ ” (my interpretation of events).
Shiva has a lot of herding collie in him, so he is more affected by our off-leash walks and just wants to “correct” all the other dogs all the time. He gets especially anxious if they are super frenetic & energetic and running everywhere. I actually read a really interesting article the other day about Border Collie histories – and the working collie is Shiva to a tee, which also mentions the anxiety created in uncontrolled environments. (so one day when we do go off-lead, we’ll be sure to keep all other dogs at equal energies to start)
Shiva is also all about his sister, so when she sends “uncomfortable vibes” he always tries to get to her side to protect her. (shame!)
They both have started “checking -in” more frequently on walks. This is when you walk with them and they look back, or at you, for reassurance. Although Shiva has done this since a puppy, Shakti, who is more independent, occasionally does this now too. Both look incredibly proud of themselves whilst doing so. 🙂
They still need work:
Even though this is already so much better, I think we’re still a way away from ‘strangers’ approaching, and /or running around off-lead in a dog park.
(And mom being okay with that too.)
They both still have issues in the beginning when they see other dogs approach. We usually keep the groups away from each other for those first couple of min and just start walking. Then once Shiva & Shakti settle, we come closer again as a group. We realise that this initial phase may never change, but we’re in this for the long-haul and it may take months for us, and them, to be comfortable with strange dogs approaching.
At least I feel a lot more comfortable already with more tools at my disposal for those situations.