ShankWhile I’ve been training dogs for over a decade, I still make mistakes. And to be honest, I make them often.

In raising my little hellion, I’ve focused quite a bit of time and energy on socialization. In my training, it has always been critical that I get young puppies out and about as much as humanly possible. Now I don’t let people pet the puppies I am working, but I like my puppies to be around as many sights, sounds, and smells as possible.

Plainly stated, I take Shank everywhere with me. We work daily on obedience at a local park, I walk him regularly, ensuring I periodically change routes so that he doesn’t settle into a routine, and I’ve even taken him on out of state road trips. All in all, I felt like I was doing an excellent job on the socialization front.

But the other day as I was working him at a local pet store, I realized something. Every time I had him out in public, he was so focused on me and on work, that he wasn’t really absorbing the environment around him.

Of course, I was thrilled at his level of focus. As we moved together through the pet store, his eyes never left mine. He performed his commands with enthusiasm and speed. But he didn’t even notice half of the people or things around him, as evidenced when he ran smack into a wall because he was too busy watching me.

So today, I changed the game. I took him on a walk in a new neighborhood. No obedience and, aside from not allowing him to pull, there were no rules. He had a blast climbing on everything, exploring, and sniffing. After he was good and tired, we visited a busy shopping center he’d never been to. We walked together in the parking lot and then ventured into the PetSmart located there. Again, no obedience whatsoever.

Now I know my dog is a reformed criminal, who, had he been a human would have been thrown in the slammer ages ago, so I was unsure of what to expect.

In usual Shank fashion, he took me completely off guard, when left to his own devices, my little demon turned angel was perfectly behaved! He moved around the people and dogs as if he’d been doing it his entire short life!

I couldn’t be more thrilled with him and his behavior today. While I still stress the importance of working fun obedience games with puppies in public places, there comes a time when you have to let your dog just be a dog. Who knows….they may just surprise you!

Meagan Karnes
Meagan Karnes

Meagan has been training dogs professionally since 2002, most recently working with private security, military and law enforcement to provide K9s for high level applications. She owns both The Collared Scholar, an online dog training academy, and 690 Security Services, a company that trains and deploys Executive Security and Protection K9s to private customers. She recently partnered with both Average Frog and SM Leaders, who repurpose the proven performance principles of the Navy SEALs for individuals and organizations.

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