Don’t get me wrong, some puppies absolutely love the school run but it’s quite overwhelming for many others. It seems like a good idea as there are loads of people, dogs, traffic, bikes, scooters, child noises etc- we may think this is a perfect opportunity to ‘socialise’ our pup but it may not be. We want to expose puppies to the world they live in but without stress, we want them to meet people and friendly dogs etc but at their pace. On the school run there is so much going on that it’s overwhelming for many puppies and they can find it quite scary. Too many hands reaching to say hi to your puppy, narrow spaces with bikes and scooters, so many people and too many excited dogs leaping towards them by the school gate- this can all be pretty scary when you are tiny.
If you’re not sure if your puppy actually enjoys it or not, watch their body language- is their body soft and relaxed or do they look tense? Is their tail tucked and are they curving their back as they feel scared? What are their ears doing? Are they trotting along happily with you or are they lagging back? Can they eat treats or are they too overwhelmed to even eat?
We need to socialise at the pace of our own dog, exposure to too much stuff too soon is likely to be harmful rather than beneficial. We also need to think about the age of our pup and where they are emotionally, if they are 8-13 weeks old and this is their first experiences of the big wide world we risk them being scared as they may now be in a fear phase (which will pass if you are careful about what you expose them to).
My puppy has been hand reared and I’ve had her since 8 days old, she’d seen a lot of the world by 5 weeks old as I carried her around with me sometimes in a carrier but she’s never done a school run or been into the busy town centre yet. Shes met lots of people and dogs but at her own pace. She’s 14 weeks old now and absolutely loves all people and I will probably take her half way on the school run soon and will avoid the really busy bit by the gate but I will be watching to be totally sure she’s happy.
We need to forget the idea that a family dog has to go absolutely everywhere with you- think about how they feel about the place you take them and give them time to get used to the big wide world out there.
(c) 2021 Laura McAuliffe, Dog Communication