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Discussion Starter #1
Would any of you care to name all the places you have taken your pups and dog's to socialize? I know some of you have mentioned schools, I've chosen to avoid that option. There is also a dog park nearly around the corner from me, but I am still undecided if I am going to explore that as an option. While listing your prefered places it would be helpful to mention if you needed to seek special permission. Also a list of places that refused would be interesting to see.

Thank you all for your suggestions.
 

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I brought my 2 to family picnics and events, this way i didnt have to feel bad instructing my family how to encounter my pups so that everything was done under control and properly. Also i would just take them when i ran to the gas station or to like CVS or something, to get them used to just being in the car. I had lots of friends come over when they were pups and still now, so that they are used to welcoming strangers into the house. Its funny now that they are a bit older that they know my friends and get all excited when they come in, and my friends love how well behaved they are, and are always sharing hugs and kisses with them. This worked out well because we traveled a few months ago for a long weekend, and i couldnt bare the thought of kenneling them, so i had friends come over and hang out with them, and feed them and walk them, and everything ran smoothly.

Ive heard that some people bring their pups to shopping malls or outside areas where they just walk up and down the sidewalks learning to be around the bustle of town and it seems to desensitize the dogs from loud noises and crowds of people. im not familiar with this, but im sure someone will explain it in more detail.


IMO doggie parks are NOT suitable for any puppy or dog. Most of the people who bring their dogs there are using it a way to release their dogs energy so the dogs and pups tehre are high energy and sometimes this can cause fights to break out. I wouldnt want my dogs to experience socialization in this way, it could cause damage to them socially.
 

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For a lot of these, I have that parvo fear so young puppies either carried or in a blanket lined basket-parvo freak. I just ask first before going in-most places love to see puppies! With older fosters, it's not always as easy.

Tractor Supply Company
Walmart parking lot if springtime with all the plants and people, other garden centers
Bargain Outlet Center
Vet office-often-with treats
Small town main streets at off-peak hours
Some Home Depots allow it
Meetings if I can (not many allow it)
Ice cream stand type places
Cemeteries when they are doing their mowing
Regular parks with onleash animals (or wildlife roaming about)
School athletic events-depending on the dog/puppy sometimes from a distance

I used to have a foster exposure checklist where I would try to make sure the dogs had seen people from baby to adult, with and without hats, beards, people in wheelchairs, using other aids, special needs people, then machinery, other noises and distractions. And then I'd indicate how they did. Which is how I kept Mariele!
And why Ilsa is still with me!

I also always brought high value treats with me-things they would never get at home.
 

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Farmers Markets
Library - not inside of course, but we would hang out front and we would get a ton of parents and kids wanting to meet her.

As far as dog parks, each park I think is different and the people who go there make a big difference too. I have met some great people add dogs there. During the last year though, more people have been coming out that are there to let the dogs release energy and have no control on the dogs. There are others with small dogs that feel there annoying barking, heel nipping ways are just fine, until your dog barks at them...

We only go after a nice long walk and only when we know who is most likely going to be there. I don't regret taking my dog to the park, but I have learned a lot and am selective now on when we go, and who we socialize with after a little dog brought out some bad habits in my dog...which are being worked on.

** Bad habits can be picked up anywhere, and not just the park....they key is socialize it around good owners too
 

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Keeta had very limited real-life exposure when I first got her. I've had her three years, and still work on socializing her and exposing her to new situations. To me, real-life socialization never ends.

At first, she would freak out at a car or truck driving by when I walked her on my very quiet, hardly any traffic, rural road. Was afraid of a refrigerator truck sitting in a mall parking lot and buzzing. We walked around it and around it and around it for ever. Doesn't bat an eye-lash at noisy trucks now, except when the semis pass us on a busy road - she'll slightly shy away.

Like Ailyn, I took her in the car everywhere with me: everytime I ran to the store, then just out of the car for a bit of a sniff, and back in. Because I live in a quiet remote area, I still take her with me when I go shopping, and take her out and now it's training, walking at heel, ignoring other dogs and people, up and down and around the strip malls.

I took Keeta into town, and walked her in heavy foot and car traffic.

Took her to the Fair Grounds and walked her through the barns, the arenas, the horse paddocks. She got to sniff noses with horses, and loved every minute of it.

Walked her through Soccer fields when games and community events were going on.

Took her to petstores of course, aske if I could take her inside at Home Depot and they said yes. Asked also at a large Garden Center, and they said only if I carried her in my arms (I guess they thought I had a purse-dog). So the garden center was out, but there may be places where you live where they will allow it.

I took Keeta for long walks on paths in parks, along the river. Lots of things to see, hear, smell. Walked her across an old wooden bridge with car traffic growling and shaking the structure. She was unsure and tucked her tail, but soldiered bravely on. I look for stairs with grating risers and walk up and down those (no problems with that).

Took Keeta to work after hours - weekends. I work at a Helicopter Maintenance Center. She got to see a ton of people, walk through the Hangar among all sorts of funny things and smells there (helicopters, tools, hoses, parts, etc), went outside and watch a helicopter run-up on the tarmac. At work, she got to deal with stairs for the first time (it was scary and challenging for her at first - now she thinks stairs are fun!), and recently I took her in to work and made her heel up and down the stairs, with me stopping in the middle (this blew her mind - up to then, stairs were for running up and down - walking slow and stopping was a real challenge for her - I guess it is hard to stop when you are a dog and all your weight is on your front paws).

At work, we have an open hallway with a railing, looking down to the first floor. Recently I was making her heel and she kept going to my other side and hugging the wall. I realized she was afraid to walk along the open side of the hallway - I guess the raillings just don't look that secure to her! I had treats on me, and got her to heel by my side between me and the open railling, she would do it for treats, but wasn't too sure, and if I stopped a few feet before the end of the open hallway, she would not want to stop and sit there but would make a HUGE leap to the safety of a solid wall by her side!

Of course, I did classes with her, then joined the Schutzhund club, more for socialization with dog-savvy people and opportunities to continue training, little did I know how addictive Schutzhund would get. So what I started doing for her, I'm now doing for me! But the socialization she gets with other people and other dogs at the club is the best thing I could have done for her. Almost daily I get comments from the club members about how much she has changed, how relaxed and confident she is now, how far she has come.

I think once you start the socializing game, you'll have lot's of ideas coming to you.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks to all of you for sharing, this is definately generating some ideas.

The dog park is a quandry for me because of all the negative reasons mentioned here. Disease and less than vigilant owners are my top worries. On the other hand it seems like a wasted opportunity to have one so close and not at least visit to check it out. I'll maybe go once my pup is older, 12 months or so, just to see how it is.
 

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I came across this article yesterday about the dangers of dogparks:

http://www.leerburg.com/dogparks.htm

My breeder told me one of her pups was killed right in his own yard because a pitbull ran off from the dog beach in Ocean Beach, San Diego, and saw the puppy going potty on his owner's property, made a mad dash and started attacking the defenseless pup. The owner & pup spent 2 agonizing days trying to save the baby, to no success.

I realize it takes just one accident, and that is too much for me.

It is a shame, because it is these few idiotic, irresponsible, careless dog owners that ruin enjoyment for the good owners and their well-behaved dogs.
 

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I think it's worth checking out. Most of my dogs' early socialization was at puppy class and daycare, but once they were 4 months old we took them to off leash parks every weekend. But ours were large open space areas, more like going for a hike with your dog than the typical small fenced area that most dog parks seem to be. The parks we go to are all heavily used, so we met a LOT of other dogs, (as well as many different kinds of people, including those in wheelchairs and using walkers, toddlers, and babies in strollers), but we weren't standing around in once place - well, unless we met another GSD owner, lol! There wasn't a lot of pack behavior, which can occur in the smaller parks, and since we're moving along greetings between dogs is brief. Even if the place near you is a smallish fenced park, see what kind of people and dogs go there, and if there are off hours that may be quieter. You could approach people who seem to have nice dogs and arrange play dates for when there aren't a lot of other dogs around, or just make connections to get your dogs together somewhere else.

But not all off leash parks are equal, and there are some I wouldn't take my dogs too, even as social and good with other dogs as they are. You should also expose your puppy to lots of new people when she's young, too young to expose her to other dogs who aren't known, friendly, and vaccinated, so invite people over to your house and take her to your friends and neighbor's houses.

As Castlemaid suggested, getting your puppy used to a variety of places and surfaces is good too. I live in a single story house, so I took them around the corner to the elementary school to introduce them to stairs. They aren't allowed on school grounds or in the playground, but the steps outside are fair game as far as I'm concerned, especially since we were there in the evening or on the weekend, and not during school hours. I have a rec center around the corner too, with a clubhouse, basketball courts, and a baseball field. Dogs are not allowed there either, but I figure the parking lot and outdoor walkways are fine, and have taken Keefer over there to watch kids play basketball, ride skateboards, and watch games from outside the field. All good places to work on attention and distraction exercises.

If you have places with outdoor seating that allows dogs, that's another good socialization opportunity. We have a brewpub here that we go to every weekend for lunch, weather permitting. Since we have mild winters they are often serving outdoors (with those big heaters) unless it's actually raining, even in December and January. It's a half block off a busy main street, and there is foot traffic, and lots of loud vehicle traffic - buses, motorcycles, and trucks. We live in a very quiet residential area, so it's good for them to be exposed to that sort of thing. They attract a lot of attention since they're leashed to the outside of a low wrought iron fence next to our table, and they've been able to meet many new people that way. We've also taken them to street fairs, and a music festival in Golden Gate Park. Grocery store parking lots are good - lots of people, cars, and shopping carts going by.

Use your imagination!
 

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good places for unusual noises:

car wash
drive through bank/restaurant
shopping center parking lot
hospital/firestation (to hear sirens)
sidewalk cafe
outdoor concert
parade

but also think about finding different surfaces to walk on:

concrete
mowed grass
tall weeds
rocks
gravel
sand
wood chips
wood decking
metal grate
bridges
stairs (concrete, wood, carpet)
over and under obstacles

and try to seek out different kinds of people for the pup to meet, especially ones that are different from you and your family:

Black
white
Asian
with a cane/walker)
wheelchair
babies in strollers and in arms
toddlers
male and female
people eating
people with animals
etc.
 

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I like to socialize dogs at bus stops and busy park benches. I like the fact that people pour out of buses. A flood of new people to sniff every few minutes keeps dogs on their toes. People come and go frequently. PetsMart is good but I can only walk around a pet shop for a limited amount of time without getting anxious to go elsewhere.

There are some restaurants that will let you eat outside with your leashed dog. Being right on a sidewalk lets the dog take in all the smells and reenforces being calm while pack leaders eat. A well placed Starbucks or coffee joint of your choice is just as good.
 

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I've never had a puppy, but I try to socialize Abby as much as I can. We try to take her anywhere we can take her, and the socialization aspect of it is an added bonus.

Small town parades are always good for exposing a pup to a lot of different things. They have everything from sirens on firetrucks, to strange vehicles (like the Shriners zipping around in those small cars), to kids, to bands, to McGruff the Crime Dog and clowns.

We've also taken her with us to Walter Reed when my DH had appointments there, and I hung out by the main entrance / bus stop with her. Loads of people came to pet her and she got to meet all sorts of people. Moms carrying babies, pregnant women, people in wheelchairs, people on crutches, etc.

Lots of places will let you hang out outside with your dog for the experience, even if you're not allowed to go in.
 

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i thought of something else i think is worth mentioning. Last night we had some of BF's friends come over to watch the patriots game, and this one kid came in the front door with his hood up. Mya did NOT take to this at all, she barked and her scruff went up but when she approached him and sniffed him, it was like oh i know you, nevermind...lol.. but it just goes to show you that even small things like people wearing hats or hoods could make a dog or pup unstable. Now im going to ask that when people come over they take their hat or hood off when they come through the door, once their sitting and comfortable hats can go back on and she is fine.
 

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Bluewolf,

We also were thinking of taking our GSD Allie to a somewhat new dogpark. I have the same reservations as you. We are located in the Akron-Canton area. To bad there is not a GSD club in this area.
 

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Once my pup has it's shots one of the places I like to take them is to the Vet's office. I know you are thinking I am nuts.... Well I have found that trips to the Vet's office that don't involve getting poked and prodded is good for the pups. I take them in, we go to a scale and get weighed, we hang out for a while, if the Tech's aren't too busy one will always come over give some treats and pet the pup.

Val
 

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I *love* Tracy's list. It is very important to expose them to different footing surfaces and races/types of people. Many people forget that.

Places we often go:
homes of friends and family
several different pet stores
schools
public parks and playgrounds
outdoor sporting events (rec-league softball games, etc...)
store parking lots
farm stores
Home Depot
barns
different SchH clubs and training classes/facilities
vet clinics
hotels (when traveling)
gun ranges (they stay in the car)
outdoor fairs, concerts, theaters, fireworks displays, parades
sidewalk cafes
walking the streets downtown
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I love this site

Thank you all for being so helpful, (and Val, no you are not crazy because my vet's office was top of my list).

One thing bumping around my subconscious is whether any of you have had a person react extremely negatively to your dog when you've taken him or her into populated places to socialize. If and when this has occurred, were you able to successfully allay the person's fears?

Kelley - isn't the Rubber City Kennel Club near you? It's not German Shepherd specific but it may be some what useful. One of my specific concerns is the owner's of small dogs, if I could find a dog park in my area where owners of larger breeds hung out, this would be ideal.
 

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I never had any problems with a puppy--everybody likes puppies.

But even if you do run into someone who's fearful (or just a jerk) don't worry about them. You're focus in on the pup. Remember, the point of the exercise is the puppy's positive experience--not to convert people who don't like dogs. Just consider meeting fearful or jerky people as another thing to check off the socializing list. If someone doesn't want to come near your pup, just be pleasant, wish them a nice day, and keep going.
 

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Originally Posted By: Luca_stlI never had any problems with a puppy--everybody likes puppies.

But even if you do run into someone who's fearful (or just a jerk) don't worry about them. You're focus in on the pup. Remember, the point of the exercise is the puppy's positive experience--not to convert people who don't like dogs. Just consider meeting fearful or jerky people as another thing to check off the socializing list. If someone doesn't want to come near your pup, just be pleasant, wish them a nice day, and keep going.
 

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Originally Posted By: BluewolfOne thing bumping around my subconscious is whether any of you have had a person react extremely negatively to your dog when you've taken him or her into populated places to socialize. If and when this has occurred, were you able to successfully allay the person's fears?
My experience socializing dogs is with adult dogs, and you do sometimes run into people who are afraid of dogs, even smaller, spaniel-sized ones. My goal is for my dogs to be well intergrated and safe members of society, and that means not causing distress, upset, or annoyances to people, where-ever I may be. If I'm in a public area, and my dog's presence is upsetting to someone, I leave, I think that is the considerate and polite thing to do.
 
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