Puppies go through a critical development phase during which exposure (safely and positively!) to new things is critical for their development. The more exposure they get in safe, fun, positive ways the better for their social development.
However, it’s just as important to continue their socialization and exposure to different environments throughout their adolescence. That’s why I make an effort to keep getting Zuzu out and about even as she’s nearing her first birthday. One of the places we go is Aspen Grove Shopping Center in Littleton, CO. They have many dog-friendly stores and it’s a great place to work on her polite behavior with people.
At this time of year, there is a seasonal Halloween store that provides some environmental stimuli that we don’t see at other times of the year. So I took Zuzu recently to visit some stores, including the Halloween store. When Romeo was a puppy, I took him too. The store was a lot less scary just a few years ago. Now, it’s filled with creepy motion-activated characters.
We kept our distance from most of them, but I allowed Zuzu to watch the cat with the big glowing eyes. I thought we were far enough from it to not activate it, but when she let out a slight woof, the cat leaped at her. Yikes! She scrambled back to get away from it but slipped on the floor. I helped her up, and she didn’t try to run away from it. I led her away shortly after so she would not bark and disturb the other store patrons. Once we got outside, she was fine.
I didn’t plan to scare her with anything – was trying to avoid it really. But she showed that while it startled her, it did not completely frighten her. She has great coping skills. And that comes with exposure to things in small doses as well as the chance to observe (from a safe distance) and overcome her initial fears or concerns. It’s perfectly acceptable and expected to jump back when something leaps out at you, but she didn’t overreact to it. That tells me I have been providing her exposure in the right ways.
Does your dog have great coping skills when confronted with new, scary things? Halloween can be a scary time for many dogs, and unfortunately, many people think it’s funny to scare the heck out of dogs. Give your dog a chance for some Halloween-themed exposure in small, manageable doses, but don’t overdo it.