Sink or Swim
If you push a puppy into deep water there’s a 50% chance they would naturally start swimming, but even if they did end up swimming and were okay, there’s a good chance they will avoid the situation again in the future. They may fear going on the dock with you again if they were unsure of your intentions. Or worse, they may end up associating the traumatic event to a completely different stimulus that they noticed such as a child’s floaty toy or a sun hat.
Puppies are very sensitive and impressionable – a puppy pushed into water may end up learning to like swimming, but it may not be worth taking that risk.
I prefer to shape my dog’s experiences and learning whenever possible. I advocate for their needs and ensure they have positive associations with new situations. I take care to teach my dogs what TO DO in a positive manner instead. In some instances I will avoid situations to prevent inadvertent learning.
Spring has sprung. Your puppy has not seen mountain bikes (scooters, joggers, etc.) erupt from a bushy corner or blind corner of a trail before. If you want your puppy to learn positive behaviours, don’t leave it to chance – especially during the adolescence angst phase. Teenage humans don’t have fully developed brains until after age of 20 and teen dogs don’t always make good choices. They need us to guide them through their world and experiences to shape their behaviour and teach them desirable responses.
We are blessed with an amazing array of trails in Squamish that we love to explore with our dogs alongside us. Unfortunately, when we are out exploring and having fun, our attention isn’t always on our dogs and this leaves them to find trouble or end up in situations that they might not be able to handle.
One scary encounter for a dog such as a fast moving bicycle and a surge of adrenalin during the chase can be a lesson never forgotten. One scent trail and a flash of a deer’s white tail and a fun run can make for a run to remember! You can be sure that next time your dog hears a bike or smells a deer that they will remember the pay off of discovering things for themselves. Act first and find your owner later. A scary encounter could lead to a panicked dog, a lost dog or a dog on a busy roadway. Or later in life your dog may learn to avoid fear by biting as a first reaction.
Undesirable behaviour can result in misery or a limited life for you and your dog. Be proactive while out on the trails and focus on your dog’s education. Don’t wait until it’s too late and you start having visions of adopting your dog out to that fictitious dream home in the country. Your dog lives in a human world where certain skills are needed. Train and find different ways to engage your dog so that they will readily respond to you and can share your life as fully as possible.
Choose your dog’s experiences carefully and limit exposure to ones that you feel confident will produce the right outcome. Prevent fear reactions by not putting your dog in situations beyond their skill level. Build your own skillset through force free positive training methods and set your dog up for success.
Don’t throw your puppy or your adolescent off the deep end. Provide experiences at their level and ensure they make positive associations and learn the right.