Socialization is critical for puppies. There is such a small window of time in which they can easily learn about the world around them. Up until around 16 weeks, they are little sponges soaking up everything they can about what life is like. It’s so important that we not only allow them multiple opportunities to learn about the world they’re going to be experiencing for the rest of their lives, but to make sure the experiences are happy and empowering. We want our puppies to see things in the world and go “Hey, that’s normal” as they grow towards adulthood. I like taking my dogs lots of places so I made sure to take Kyber to busy places, quiet places, the park, the woods, a dog show, stores, etc. while he was young. It was challenging given that he came home when it was winter AND there’s still a global pandemic. But it was way too important to skimp on.
Then, at 16 weeks of age, he broke his leg. I had to keep him contained and rested. He was only allowed very short, on leash walks. While I knew I had done a good job getting him out into the world, I also knew that essentially hiding him from the world for the next 2 months was a very bad idea. It is vitally important that he still get out and about. Doing so given his restrictions was going to be a challenge. I didn’t want him rushing up to dogs (or having dogs attempt to play with him). I don’t need people getting him all excited. He isn’t allowed to walk on slippery surfaces. He is allowed to walk but not for very long. What to do?
I borrowed a friend’s dog stroller. He’s almost too big for it already but it works. I can get him out into the world so he can still see things without concern of him overdoing it and reinjuring himself. While my preference is to give my puppy (and dogs) freedom to move towards or away from things as they feel comfortable, it’s not really an option with the stroller. Fortunately, Kyber is a pretty confident guy so I don’t have to worry much about accidentally having him too close to something that scares him. As a bonus, he doesn’t have the opportunity to try and greet all the people and dogs he sees (though he’d like to!) which helps him learn the skills I want him to have as an adult. I am happy he likes people and dogs but I don’t want him to think he gets to say “Hi” to everyone out there. The stroller facilitates that.
Making sure a puppy gets the right life experiences in the proper timeframe is a challenge. Sometimes we have to get creative and think outside the box. Sometimes we have to endure puzzled looks from people as we cart our 26 lb puppy around in a stroller. Or refuse to let our young dog say “Hi” to their rambunctious dog who’s straining at their leash. It’s all worth it, though. Life with a dog who hasn’t had the opportunity to learn that the world is a safe place is incredibly taxing. I went through it with Risa. I do my best to make sure my puppies are set up for success so that they can happily navigate whatever life may throw at them.