Today Falka had her first bath with me. Normally I would wash her myself but being in Poland I lack the facilities, so I was on a lookout for friendly grooming parlours where we could do it at our own pace. By a happy chance, I drove past a grooming place owned by a girl I know from breed forums. I recognised her dog on the advert, of course.
We went there once a couple days ago or so, when we just chatted with Yarpen and Falka at our feet. At the end, I popped Falka in the bath with water off and just fed her some treats. This was a very good intro, as today she behaved like a real trooper, being cool evenwith having blaster blow on her head! She looks so fluffy and sweet now…. Though even bigger than she already is! We also clipped her little claws – no issue whatsoever. Such a relief… starting with a puppy relaxed about being touched is a blessing.
Aside from getting her all nice and clean, this was also a good socialisation opportunity. She is extremely sweet and was giving Kasia (the groomer) kisses whenever she would get a chance. I have already noticed that with her before. She is WAY more friendly with humans now than Yarpen ever was. I’m very curious to see if this is her personality, or perhaps the effect of me being far more relaxed with my socialisation attempts.
Yarpen was a kennel-born puppy and wasn’t that well socialised with humans when I picked him up. He loved dogs and other animals, which was a great thing for me though! He certainly has never seen kids. I have attempted “socialising” him by bribing him with treats but also with too much pressure… (Hindsight can be a blessing and a curse!) Asking people to feed him was NOT a good idea. He would still growl (when he was older) or avoid them, while at the same time trying to rob them off whatever they had! It took me some time to find a method which would harness his temperament, guarding tendencies and the fall-out from my early attempts. With Falka, I decided straight away that I will want her to direct to me whenever she sees a human, other animal or anything else that might startle her. I don’t know if she will retain her friendliness when she hits puberty, but even if she does, I would rather she comes to me when she sees a human, than run at full speed to say “hello” to a stranger… I don’t think they would be very happy about having a huge-black-beast charge at them, whatever her intentions… I do it by first letting her watch whatever caught her attention, and then rewarding her when she looks up to me. With every new event I hope it will become more and more generalised.
Socialisation is a hot topic for me at the moment. Before getting her I read a book in which it was recommended to introduce a puppy to at least a 100 people before they leave the breeder and another 100 within their first month in the new home. This absolutely freaked me out, as I am not a very sociable person and I actually don’t think I know that many people! (at least not in real life…) Having them all visit the house would be even more unrealistic… So I had a mild case of paranoia, predicting what could happen if I don’t socialise Falka enough… Well, if I was worried about the number of my friends in Scotland, then finding even a fraction of that number while staying in Poland was simply impossible. But I started thinking about my past dogs, particularly Nekar. He was a bit of a nutcase, and he stayed with me (we owned his dam) precisely because I thought that he needed extra help in becoming a well adjusted dog. But, at that time of his puppyhood I didn’t have a car. Neither did my friends (not very surprising considering we were 13!). My parents did not share my ideas on dog training and would rather sell a car than let me put a dog in it. I didn’t have many friends coming over, as I was going to a school far from home. I did take him for 3 week long holidays in the woods, where he met maybe 15 people in total. And yet he grew up to be perfectly fine among people, as well as dogs. Of course, I walked him, trained him and he had access to a fence watching over the road. We developed together; as I was getting older I was able to take him to more distant places, meeting more people, doing more things (including pulling a sledge with a racoon dog in a cat cage!).
I have huge respect for the author of the 100-people recommendation, but… it just doesn’t sit well with me. Perhaps because my chosen breed is not renowned for their friendliness? Perhaps because of my past experiences, where I achieved great success with a dog without heavy socialisation and failed by attempting (please note, I am aware that I wasn’t doing it right!) more modern version of the socialisation? Of course I now would approach it differently than I did with Yarpen, but, putting together my current living situation I am just trying to “be” with Falka and experience life together, rather than try and convince her that everything in life is cool.
A lot of my musings on this subject were stirred by this article by Meagan Karnes, even though I do not wish to become the one and only joy in Falka’s life.
Having said all this, we have been to a few places already. When it was still warm, I was taking the dogs to the lake, I think it was probably 4 or 5 times. A few times she saw other dogs there, but without physical interaction. She obviously saw people, bikes, a few prams…. But interacted only with a couple of people who approached us. After that, we have been in the woods a few times, but without meeting anyone. We also went to a superstore which allows dogs in – that was pretty close to flooding…. But I had Yarpen’s help. After entering the shop she got a bit overwhelmed, so I just sat down on the floor, downed Yarpen and together we just absorbed the experience of AC, automatic doors, trolleys, people… when she was done absorbing, she redirected to me, so I gave her a cookie, told her how brave she is, cuddled a bit and we spent the rest of the trip by happily walking around the shop with Falka wagging her tail and occasionally sit/watch asking for treats. And then of course there was the groomer’s visits. And the dreaded vet visit… That wasn’t too pleasant. Having said that, she didn’t mind the vet, but the smell completely freaked her out. I made a point of coming back, this time with Yarpen, and we just sat discussing stuff with the vet, with Falka being allowed to do whatever she wanted (which was sitting under my chair). We will have to work on that when we get back home, but I think it should be easier as this particular vet had a very strong smell of disinfectant – if I could smell it, how bad it must have been for her! Other than the vet visit, she was always in company of Yarpen and sometimes Pusia too (though she is such a grumpy old lady sometimes that I’m not sure if it helped!).
Back at home, we had literally 3 visitors, 2 adult women and one toddler. We have a list of people waiting to visit us when we get back though, so perhaps it won’t be too bad….. (if you would like to be added to that list, drop me a message and we will arrange your puppy date!).
Below is a very old photo of Nekar when he was a pup, with his big pal, Tao Tao. Tao was a 1/4 siberian husky and one of the best dogs I’ve met.