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We Are Not Running A Zoo: So Make Your Dog A Good Citizen

Posted March 4th, 2011 in Socialization of Dogs, Socializing Dogs by Glenn Plaskin

Last night, my new puppy, Lucy, and I were heading out for an evening walk along the Hudson River, when danger lurked, just around the bend.

As we were moving into the lobby and toward the exit doors, Lucy mischievously broke away from me, her leash whipping out of my hand as she raced toward our dog-loving doorman Dave, her tail merrily wagging.

Lucy with our doorman Dave

Lucy at Borders, great at press events and book signings

Lucy is the happiest, friendliest puppy imaginable–and one of the reasons she turned out that way is because she was socialized extensively from the time she was 8 weeks old. I exposed her to babies and kids of all ages, dogs of all sizes and breeds, city noises, escalaters, elevators, any and everything.

Lucy at 8 weeks old, when she first began socializing

Anyway, as Lucy trotted over to Dave, one of the neighbors in my 35-story-highrise was entering the lobby from outside with his two Akitas, a majestic breed, known to be loyal and intelligent. They do, however, need to be socialized as puppies so they are friendly dogs and should have experienced owners.

In this case, the owner keeps these 100-pound plus dogs on a very tight leash because they look aggressive, not playful or friendly in the least. Having observed them many times, they frankly look as if they’re going to lunge toward another dog and eat them! Hostile is the word.

I’ve seen this many times–as dogs seem to divide themselves between the well-socialized ones–and those sadly filled with fear. (Not the dog’s fault!)

As my congenial puppy trotted over to these two dogs, one of them growled, and looked ready to pounce. I immediately pulled Lucy away and got a lecture from the owner about keeping my dog on a leash–”there’s a reason they have dogs on a leash laws!”–indeed, as the implication was that if his dogs were free, they’d be a significant threat to other dogs.

So well socialized that she visits book stores to sign autographs with her paws

First of all, my dog accidentally got away from me, and she was on a leash. But the real problem is this: If you have dogs in a large residential complex that houses many others dogs–and kids–and these dogs are hostile, poorly socialized, or a potential threat to others–THEY SHOULD NOT BE LIVING IN THE BUILDING AT ALL. After all, what happens if one of these aggressive dogs accidentally breaks away on the leash just as mine did– what then?

Is a child or another dog going to be in danger?

As I told the owner, much to his displeasure–”If you have dogs who are aggressive and are poorly socialized, they should not be living in a residential building with hundreds of other dogs and people around them.”  We are not running a zoo.

Lucy likes to read!

The sad part is that this is not the dog’s fault. It’s the owners–who did not properly socialize their dog.

In order to successfully do this, it MUST happen within the first 16 weeks. So while vets differ on whether or not you should keep your puppy away from adult dogs until they have all their shots, I can tell you that a puppy must play with other dogs from 8 weeks on. Lucy did it and she was absolutely fine–never catching anything–as most well-cared for dogs have had their shots, and are not contagious.

Lucy socializing with twin girls on the lawn outside our building

Remember, socialization is the window of time in our puppy’s lives that determines who they will become as adult dogs.

Lucy's Best Friend, Stanley

Socializing includes curious babies

Lucy loves pit bull Donny

As I recently read in the excellent ‘complete guide to responsible dog ownership’ site:“The temperament, character and behavior habits of your puppy are developed during this socialization period – and will last a lifetime. It affects how your puppy will relate to his family, strangers, animals and the environment in which he lives.

“Puppy socialization stimulates the five senses of your young dog. It is the introduction, exposure and desensitization to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch of everyday life. The socialization period conditions your puppy to the many different situations he needs to be familiar with and comfortable around. It also prepares him to deal with the new experiences and challenges which inevitably arise throughout life in an appropriate manner.

“Puppy socialization is the crucial stage where you begin to build the close bond you share with your dog, one that will last forever. It’s up to you – any puppy can become a well adjusted and trusted member of society through proper socialization.

Lucy with her majestic friend Cesare

We owe it to our puppies to provide them with thorough socialization.”

And when we do–the result is a good canine citizen for life, a source of joy to kids, adults, and other dogs–the best possible companion imaginable, like my Lucy.

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THE CUTEST LEGEND IN TOWN: Winning Friends And The Influence Of Puppies

Posted June 30th, 2010 in Cocker Spaniels, Dogs, Friendship, Getting A New Dog, Puppies, Socializing Dogs by Glenn Plaskin

 

Lucy Snuggles Up To A New Baby In Town

 

When I got my new puppy Lucy this past May,  I never imagined that she would, among other things, be a passport to a brand-new social life. But that’s exactly what happened. I have more new human and canine friends than I ever imagined I would, my social life expanding exponentially due the the incredible cuteness of my puppy and her outgoing, friendly disposition.

Living in Battery Park City and going in and out of dog runs and walking Lucy along the Hudson River 8 times daily!–we bump into big dogs and small ones, seniors and babies, plus a cavalcade of kids all day long–each of them walking (or trotting) over to check Lucy out. She is a love magnet.

Lucy and her boyfriend, Stanley

 

They want to hold her; chase her; feed her; play with her; be photographed with her. And everybody leaves us with at least one little gift–a kiss from Lucy, who has mastered licking not only her food bowl but every human (and canine ) she sees.

I read that the window of the socialization of a puppy closes at about 16 weeks, and now that Lucy is four months old and it’s officially closed, I can report that my dog is fully and happily socialized. Whether it’s the sound of traffic or heliocopters, the motion of elevators or circular doors, crying babies, overly-aggressive adolescents, horses, dogs, or skateboards–NOTHING bothers Lucy. She’s game for anything and everything and always read to play.

She especially loves HUGE dogs, jumping up on them to kiss or bite their ears, or getting a grip on their long bushy tails, never letting go as she gets whirled around. Like a gymnast, she somersaults effortlessly, laughing all the way, her tongue merrily falling out of her mouth, breathless with excitement for more…and more and more! I’m thinking of sending her to doggie day care a few days a week just to tire her out!

Lucy's new boyfriend, Donny

 


Cesare and Lucy, fast new friends

 

In any case, I’m so pleased to have a happy dog–one who has no fears. Two of her favorite playmates are pit bulls Angie and Donny–both big and muscular compared to Lucy’s 10-pound frame. And yet, they’re incredibly gentle and patient with her as she assaults them with her puppyness, knawing at their ears, jumping up against them, rolling under them, and otherwise doing her level best to seduce them into play. It’s a happy thing to see.

I hope you all enjoy seeing these pictures of Lucy with her many new friends, who never forget her name.

“Hi LUCY!” is the refrain I hear, over and over again, on every one of our walks. Just like my perspicacious dog KATIE, Lucy is quickly becoming a neighborhood fixture, the cutest legend in town.

Lucy likes horses too--especially police horse Lee

 

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Incredible Cuteness: The Secrets To Socializing One New Puppy (And Me!)

Posted June 15th, 2010 in Cocker Spaniels, Dogs, Friendship, New Puppy, New York, Puppies, Socializing Dogs by Glenn Plaskin

In early May, when I brought home my new cocker spaniel puppy, Lucy, there was one thing I was determined to do–socialize her the right way!

Why? Because the first 16 weeks of a dog’s life are crucial–the window of time in our puppy’s lives that determines who they will become as adults, how they react to strangers young and old, kids, all kinds of dogs, and the environment in which they live.

For me, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch of our little waterside community in Battery Park City–with its more than 700 dogs–is the perfect training ground for any puppy, a circus and dog show rolled into one.

In the Introduction of  KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL, I describe it this way:  “The Esplanade is jam-packed with bikers, joggers, rollerbladers, skateboarders, picnickers, volleyball and soccer players, and a cavalcade of baby carriages. This is Kid Central–with toddlers and school kids everywhere–their bikes, skateboards, frisbees, and kites filling the neighborhood with action.”

In short, it’s the ideal place to socialize a puppy, desensitizing a dog to all the stimulation of city life–traffic, garbage trucks, sirens, elevators, fountains, blaring music, fireworks, the sound of the waves, the hoofs of a police horse, golf carts, any and everything.

A neighborhood boy who can't get enough of Lucy

So, after four weeks on the job, Lucy isn’t bothered by any of it.  She loves watching the birds and squirrels and she doesn’t flinch at screaming babies or noisy kids. She’s intrigued by the grass and blowing leaves. And vitally important, she adores dogs of every shape and size. She rubs noses with majestic Great Danes and pint-sized pugs. She chases Golden retrievers and Labs. One German shephered in the neighborhood named Jake, renowned for his “singing,” croons to Lucy. She chases boxers, Yorkies, poodles, and Boston terriers.

Thinking back, there was a time when the heroine of my book, KATIE, was withdrawn from most other dogs, most interested in humans and I never understood why, until I read some articles about socializing dogs. Now I see that it was because I never actively exposed her to dogs during the first 16 weeks. So throughout her lifetime, she was somewhat aloof to all dogs except the few she knew.

So this time around, I am focused on making Lucy a bon vivant. Indeed, her social calendar is packed with people and dogs from morning to night during our 8 walks daily (until she gets a little older, this is my fate!)

I can tell you that she has been passed into the arms of countless strangers since she arrived here in the Battery. Anyone who stops to admire her incredible cuteness gets a hug and a kiss. She’s permiscuous to a fault and kisses anybody she meets. She’s had her picture taken with tourists lonesome for their own dogs; she crawls into baby strollers and snuggles with new-borns; she chases elementary school kids, attempting to undo their shoelaces; she tackles 90-pound dogs and playfully whacks them in the face with her paws, biting their ears. On one recent night, she found a huge dog and got a good grip with her mouth on his long bushy tail and wouldn’t let go! He gave her a wild ride, whirling around and around, and I’ve never seen her happier, her tongue hanging out with pleasure. The encounter ended with her putting her entire head in his mouth. Not a bruise.

Lucy and her boyfriend Stanley

And of course, she socializes daily with her “regulars,” our neighbor Mike and his pug Duchess, Brandon and his Bijon Frise Fred, Ben and his two Shih Tzus Mico and Sammy, Maria and her Wheaten terrier, Norma, and most important, Elisha and Raffi’s adorable dachshund STANLEY.

This has become a special connection. Lucy and Stanley, who both live on the same floor in our 35-story building, are in LOVE! Boyfriend and girlfriend, they adore adore each other and race up and down the hall just as Katie used to with blinding speed. Lucy is voracious for these whirwind runs. And when they play inside the apartment together, the action goes on for hours, until they both collapse for naps.

It gives ME such pleasure to see my puppy so happy, so healthy, so well-exercised and socialized.So while many dogs in our neighborhood are skittish and afraid of their canine compatriots, literally clueless about how to appropriately “play” with another dog, thankfully, my bouncy spaniel is filled with curiosity, eager to strut along the Esplanade–finding new canine pals wherever she goes–sniffing, licking, circling, jumping, racing around, eager to have some fun.

As for me, I’ve lost 12 pounds exercising. It just goes to show you what incredible cuteness can do for you.

And not least important, Lucy has helped socialize ME, as all dogs do. I’ve never had so many new human and canine friends. I’m virtually never alone when I’m outside, not for a minute. All kinds of people come up to me to talk and to pet my dog. Fellow dog owners have given me dog toys and books about training a puppy, late night visits for housebreaking tips, shared dinners out by the Hudson, you name it. One night, when I was in a panic about having bitten off more than I could chew training a puppy, two kind friends, Helen Lee, Mike and their pug, Duchess, stopped by to cheer me up and cheer me on. Who could ask for anything more? And it’s all because of one incredible cocker spaniel named LUCY.

For anyone who would like to meet Lucy in person, please join us on September 16 at Barnes & Noble Tribeca, a book signing for KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL, hosted by Liz Smith.

Incredible Cuteness

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