During the critical development stage for puppies, it's important to expose them to as many new and different people, animals, places and things as we can. It's just as important to expose them in a safe and positive way, though, as a bad experience can sometimes be worse than no exposure to something at all. For dogs well past that puppy stage, exposure to new things is still a valuable lesson and good experience.
For Romeo, his new exposure lately (May 2011) has been our neighbor's lambs. (You might remember my post from 5/23/11 in which I had to herd the lambs back into their enclosure.) While our neighbor did have lambs last summer as well, I don't know if Romeo remembers that experience, and he was never able to get as close to them as he has to the lambs this year. So I am counting it as a new experience for him.
As he does with sightings of any animals on our walks, he was pretty excited the first time he saw them. And the second time. Over the past week or two, he has seen the lambs probably a handful of times. Sometimes they are in a fenced enclosure right on the edge of our property and sometimes they are in the barn and unseen. He was still quite interested in them this morning, and they were curious about him as well.
At that point, Romeo was on his 20 foot line, and I told him to wait. I gave him a short time to observe them and they him, then I had him move on. He was not allowed to get too close, as I was afraid he would startle the lambs. He easily moved on.
Once we were past the lambs and out of sight, I let Romeo loose to run around a bit and get some extra exercise. We played around nearby but he never once paid any more attention to the lambs even though we could still see them.
I can't say the same for the deer or bunnies yet, but we're working toward being able to watch without feeling the need to chase. The more practice he gets with exposure to different animals and new things that peak his interest, the better he gets at keeping his cool and maintaining his “listening ears”.
What was the last new thing your dog had exposure to and how did s/he handle it?