Anubi (2 years) at one of his therapy dog visits- note the wheel chairs, walker, and other medical equipment

I do a therapy dog visit with Anubi once a month. We encounter over a fifty people at the assisted living and memory care facility. There are walkers, wheel chairs, braces, casts, odd smells, loud noises, and often other dogs. One time while we were there the paramedics had to show up and we encountered a stretcher in the hallway. These are all things that my very special dog takes in stride.

Amidi (16 months) inside Petsmart after a vet visit.  Even in a fear period, she's well adapted.

Therapy dog work isn't for every dog. It's definitely not for most azawakh. For instance, neither of my girls would be interested in the work. But we do regularly go to dog sport events and festivals. I regularly take my dogs into dog friendly stores. My dogs come to work with me at a busy training and daycare facility (over 200 dogs come through a day) every single day. All of this is made possible through early and continued socialization and exposure.

Amidi (8 weeks) investigates one of Deb's chickens that was feeling poorly and thus inside.

There is a critical/sensitive (the terminology has changed throughout the training industry) window from roughly 8-14 weeks where your puppies are most receptive to introduction to new and novel items and scenarios. During this window even one positive exposure to something can create a positive association that lasts a lifetime. Similarly, one negative association can last just as long and prove very tricky to shake.

Amidi's breeder, Kel Simoon and Sambala (Deb Kidwell, Norma Spivey, and Vicki Harrison Williams) have a rigorous socialization protocol. Vicki has called it Puppy Culture on steroids. They work to make their puppies completely bombproof and it shows. Here she is at 8 weeks meeting a chicken for the first time. She doesn't encounter chickens often in her day to day life but she can be off leash in a friends yard with the chickens loose and not take off after them.

Here's the list that they follow when socializing their puppies:

100 people People with beards People in hats People in uniforms People in skirts /trench coats People in loud high heels Bald people People wearing sunglasses People wearing hoodies People with noisey bangle bracelets and necklaces with pendants that swing Wheelchairs Crutches Walker Scooter -medical Loud screaming children Running children Babies /toddlers Different races/colors Joggers/runners Shuffling people Slouched people Shaking people People wearing perfume, cigarette, fresh nail polish, hand sanitizer Costumes/mascots Statues Roller blades Scooters/skateboards Bikes Trash can rolling Luggage rolling Carts moving People carrying large objects/Rubbermaid totes Large stuffed animals /taxidermy Christmas blow up figures Flailing arm man at Car lots Mirrors Moving fans Vacuum /Roomba Mop Broom Helium balloons Hot air balloons Umbrellas Wind socks Flags Bright lights/camera boom/photo shoot/tv camera moving

Football/soccer game Basketballs bouncing /sneakers squeaking on court Open back stairs Fireworks Crates /tables being collapsed and dropped (shows) Parade loud music bands Concert Thrown things Baby strollers/dog strollers Flashlight Plastic bags on a stick / garden flags popping in the wind Traps blowing in the wind Bells or wind chimes (walking thru) Walking on straw/hay Feather dusters Gunfire Thunder Sirens Loud cars/ mufflers Airport Buses/ popping hissing Trains Construction site Shopping cart Lawn mower Chain saw Large equip / tractor Remote car/toy Elevators Automatic glass doors Camera /cell phone Clicker Whistle

Wire crate Plastic crate Soft crate Goggles Party hats Balance object on head Coat/shirt/costume Doggie shoes Vet wrap or bandage on leg, body, head/ear, tail Brush/comb Hair dryer Dremel Groom table Nail clipper hair clippers Bath/ walk up stairs into tub Open air ride/ golf cart, boat, 4 wheeler, wagon Jingle bells on harness or coat Ceiling fans Medical exam by stranger Ride in crate

Walking over different surfaces Frozen towels Wet tarp Tarp over foam Mud Tippy board/teeter Standing water - puddles/pools Spraying water-hose/fountain Moving water -stream Footbridge /swinging bridge Walk In bubble wrap Heights Beach -winds/waves/birds Walk In rain Rain loud on car Drive thru car wash-brushes/brushless City grates/drains Step up on command - scales/benches/stone wall/ walkways

Animals Horses Mini horses Horses moving on pavement Cows Llamas/alpaca Donkey Cats Dogs -unfriendly barking Mice /rats Rabbits Chickens /ducks Baby chicks /ducks Sheep Goats Pigs

Fallen kennel panel? "No problem," say Amidi

They don't necessarily do every piece on the list while the puppies are in their care, but it's the list they've comprised and recommend everyone use when socializing their puppies. And when we say socializing we don't mean run them right up to things that they're terrified of and just expect them to "get over it". Dogs don't speak English and they won't understand why you're dragging them around making them do scary things. You can't just explain it to them in words and so you very quickly start to get a break down in trust.

Amalu (12 weeks) at her second vet check-up

Instead, take a minute out of your day, slow down, take out your treats and let your dog approach at their own speed. Or let them stand at the end of the leash and go touch and interact with the scary object yourself. Dogs learn a lot more by seeing their owner interact confidently with the new and novel than they do if you just tell them "it's okay" in a high, tight, seemingly worried voice.