Socialize that Puppy!
Many people assume that unless it's the vet's office or an obedience class, a dog is not welcome. Not so! Your dog doesn't have to be a prisoner in your home, bored and lonely, until your return. A change of scenery does you both good. Whether it's looking out the car window or accompanying you into stores on everyday errands, your dog will enjoy your companionship. Basic obedience training can provide the manners, gentle socialization and composure for your dog to be welcome in many places. Malamutes, a breed that tends to be aggressive to other canines and other small pets, benefits greatly from early socialization to other animals, particularly dogs and people. Whereas most Malamutes love almost every person they meet, they are not always so good with other canines and cats. Socialization can help. Some Malamutes will never be fond of strange dogs, but can learn to behave properly on leash and tolerate them. Unless you've had a snarlying snapping dog aggressive Malamute you wanted to take somewhere, you can't appreciate the value of early socialization and positive early experiences. Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in France where many neighborhood bistros wecome pets? Perhaps some day!
The first step, since you will not be able to take your dog in every establishment you visit, must be a well-behaved car rider. He must be able to wait patiently for your return without barking, crying or destroying. With a new puppy, begin slowly with short trips and ALWAYS be aware of the weather. Even on a cool day the sun can be much too hot for a dog waiting in a vehicle, and a very cold day can be too cold for even a Malamute puppy that lives indoors. Give him a secure place to sit if you don't use a crate. I've used a fairly deep cardboard box with a small blanket for him to rest in between stops. This keeps the puppy out from under your feet. Never leave a very young puppy alone, but as he gets older, you can let him wait for you for short periods depending on how reliable he seems to be. Leave him something to do - a chewy, toy and his blanket - and remove anything dangerous he could eat or get into (like packages or groceries!). Check on him after 5 minutes the first few times and park where you can see the car. Be aware that dogs can be stolen from cars. Always lock doors and keep window openings too small for someone to reach inside. Never park in isolated areas. Using good judgment is imperative. Some places are just not good places to leave your dog in the car - malls, large parking lots, bad neighborhoods - no matter the weather. Parking where you can see the car at a strip mall or with lots of pedestrian traffic is usually safer. Still, if you have any reservations, leave your pet home. A dog that is a well behaved passenger in the car can begin to expand his knowledge of the human world.
A friendly, well-behaved dog can be welcome in virtually hundreds of places, only limited by your lifestyle, imagination, and interest in bringing him. The best time to begin socializing your pup to different places is when it is very young and had it's first set of puppy shots. You don't need to wait for the entire set of shots however. If you are careful, he has enough immunity to be taken places other dogs do not frequent often. A puppy is cute and irresistible. You can bring a large breed puppy more places than a full grown adult so start young. Once the dog is full grown, more people will balk at having him around no matter how well-behaved. With smaller breeds you have a larger window of opportunity. Carry small treats with you to give to people that greet your puppy. (He will think strangers are wonderful! and use those treats for rewarding a Malamute that makes friendly overtures to other dogs too).
After a full set of vaccinations, when housebreaking is reliably underway, and the puppy walks without balking or pulling on lead, you're ready to really begin serious socialization for your puppy. Your dog is the ambassador for all dogs that come after him, you he needs to be at his best. Be sure your dog is clean and brushed. Always use a leash and clean up after him if he has an accident. Some breeds shed incredibly at certain times of the year and it would be inconsiderate to leave behind tufts of hair for someone else to sweep up. If the dog has any unsightly skin conditions, clear them up first. Bitches in season, dogs being treated for parasites or chronic illness, or dogs unhealthy in any way, should stay home or wait in the car, as well as dogs with aggression problems. A short lead gives you the best control going in buildings, and never allow your dog to put paws on counters or persons unless asked. If someone wants to pet your puppy, ask him to sit first. A puppy should be learning to sit, down, stay and walk nicely on lead - the best place to start learning this is a puppy class or beginning obedience class - and the class gives your pup another opportunity to socialize with other dogs in a controlled and hopefully positive situation.
One place I do avoid with a young puppy are outdoor public parks because you have no idea if a sick or stray dog has left something behind your pup could get seriously sick from. Wait until he is fully vaccinated to visit public parks. Short trips to pet supply stores are good outings. Here is a link to other stores that allow dogs! Including:
- Home Depot
- Pottery Barn
- Barnes & Noble
- Bass Pro Shops
- LUSH Cosmetics
- Restoration Hardware
- The Gap
- Urban Outfitters
- Free People
- Saks Fifth Avenue
- Tractor Supply Co.
- Many Nurseries (as in plants, not kids)
If the puppy has an accident from nervousness, most are well prepared and understanding (but always bring clean up materials if you think it may happen). Many will give the pup a treat and lots of attention - making it an excellent first experience. Practice your sits and downs whenever you stop to browse or must wait at the checkout. Stay away from other animals - you don't know them. Don't let your dog dive for food in bins or clean the floors. Be generous with praise when your puppy behaves confidently and well. When your puppy is comfortable in pet stores, expand his horizons. Many banks and fast food restaurants give treats though the drive-in window. How about a visit to the vet - JUST to get weighed and a treat? The vet's office won't be scary if most visits are for a "ho-hum" weigh in. Enlist friends and ask to bring your pup for a visit. Bring treats. If the friend has unaggressive pets, introduce them slowly. With a Malamute, the more friendly dogs you introduce him to when young, the less likely you will have serious dog aggression as an adult. You are expanding your puppy's social world by allowing him to make friends - you want as many good experiences as possible. Always keep him under control, clean up any accidents and if problems develop, be ready to leave immediately.
Once your pup is confident and calm in friends homes, it's time to get adventurous. Errands to plant nurseries, mechanic's garage, hardware stores, automotive stores, vacuum cleaner stores, flea markets, outdoor ice cream parlors, printers, dry cleaners and your child's school for show-and-tell (however, in a situation with many children you MUST have control of the situation and do not let multiple children grab at the pup! Only allow one child at a time to pet the pup and stop when the puppy has had enough). Keep visits short and your pup won't get bored and inclined to be restless. Always let the puppy potty before leaving home and again before going in, if possible. Keep paper towels and a plastic bag with you in case of an accident. Watch males closely and correct if there is even the thought of marking. The sheer variety of smells and people will keep him entertained for short periods and the attention of employees seeing a puppy can brighten their day. One of the most interesting places we've visited is the taxidermist. The dogs tell me the smells are incredible. It's fun to watch bird dogs notice the birds and a Malamute look suspiciously at the bears. Small businesses are best and usually more appreciative of your business. Large chains are more likely to have a written policy against pets. Try visiting bookstores, dimestores, cardshops, florists, inside the bank. With a well-behaved dog you'll rarely be asked to leave - usually they ask us to come back so they can watch the puppy grow up! However, if someone does ask you to leave, do so quietly and without argument. This can be very awkward for you and the store manager. It's not anything against you or your dog - it may be his boss or an unposted company policy. You might suggest they post a no pets allowed sign so others will not make the mistake of thinking pets are welcome. Your choices at this point are to put the pup in the car and return, or show the establishment you're a dog-loving consumer and take your business elsewhere. Avoid stores filled with breakable objects and never bring your dog in where food is sold. Many states have laws only allowing service animals in these establishments. I've observed that if there is a sign posted requiring shoes, shirts, etc., a dog is ordinarily NOT allowed.
Once your pup is confident in many situations you can bring him along when you know it will take longer or he will have to behave extra well to be welcome. A boring wait for a tire rotation can be more pleasant with your best friend along. Parades, hay rides, cider mills, dog shows, festivals, soccer and softball games, and other outdoor activities are good places to start practicing long visits. You may want to bring a rawhide or toy to keep him entertained if you have a long wait. When a lot of walking is involved with a very young puppy that tires easily, a front-type baby carrier or fabric pet carrier works well. A puppy can go places without the worry of what he might pick up off the ground. Crowds can be very overwhelming for any dog. You know your dog and must be his protector. Watch for "overload" and stress. Never feel reluctant to tell an adult or child to stop petting the dog. He should enjoy the outing. It is not supposed to be an ordeal to be endured. Also, pay attention to others who may not be watching their own dogs closely enough. Many foolish people let their dogs run up to your Malamute, and while this might not be a problem when he's a puppy - it becomes a problem as an adult as he will not tolerate ill mannered or pushy dogs. Unfortunately, inconsiderate people like this make your dog look bad when your Malamute growls at the offender, so it's best to avoid situations where strange dogs can wander up to your Malamute as he grows up - and ALWAYS use a leash yourself!
Finally, the day has come and your dog can go almost anywhere - behaving admirably around people, even tolerating strange dogs he is not fond of. You're getting compliments on the wonderful temperament he has (say thanks - you deserve the compliment!). You know you've made it when he lies down and falls asleep at your feet while they're checking the credit limit on your master card! Of course, be prepared for setbacks. One of our pups was doing very well going just about anywhere when we stopped at a local pet store that had a ceiling fan. He'd never noticed it before. He spooked and tried to run. If something happens to scare your pooch, don't offer sympathy, that would be encouraging the dogs' fear. A better way to handle an unexpected fear situation is to act nonchalant, be firm and calm and return often. Each time moving a bit closer to the dreaded object and praising when the dog has a moment of bravery. Eventually he'll overcome his fear. We have a ceiling fan in our kitchen now, he doesn't care -and the lady in the pet shop still asks about him years later!
Enough exposure and your dog will become accustomed to the endless variety of places he will be taken. Eventually you can feel confident to bring your dog most anywhere. Many people have done just this and take their pets on planned visits to nursing homes, hospitals and schools for the handicapped. Therapy work is extremely rewarding and it's not just the dog who benefits!
Self-employed dog owners have discovered the good will a friendly pet can have in their place of business. A dog that will sleep under the desk or just "hang out" without pestering employees is a good candidate for "office dog". There is a school in our area whose principal brought his puppy in daily because he hated to leave a young pup home alone. It's grown now, and has become the school mascot. The kids just love it. There are many work situations that would lend themselves to canine ambassadors or furry foot stools. With planning, a crate, and a few toys most dogs would love full employment as a canine assistant!
Even if Fido can't go to work, planning your errands and grouping "dog friendly" stops with "dog safe" parking lots, you can bring your best friend with you much of the time. Only occasionally will he have to be a latch-key dog, sleeping the hours away until you return.