Socializing Your Puppy: Meeting Something Scary

As I mentioned last week, we’re busy socializing our new puppy Bärli with a long list of activities and experiences to enjoy with him. We’re working on exposing him to many types of experiences, locations, and people.

Today we headed to the Texas Hill Country to see the bluebonnets and visit Inks Lake State Park to see people fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and RVing. On the way to the state park, we decided to make a quick potty stop in the town of Burnet at the downtown park. It’s a small, quiet park, and we just planned to get in a short walk.

Tiki has been to this park many times and was excited to see that we were back. She was ready to stroll the river walk and took right to the bridge over the river, with Bärli by her side:

And that’s when Bärli spotted the trouble…a goose

In all of Bärli‘s socialization trips and day-to-day experiences (where we’ve watched him as he’s heard sounds ranging from motorboats to gunshots), he has taken it all in stride…until the goose came along.

Bärli watched Tiki, who showed interest in the goose but was quickly distracted by something else (squirrel!). Not Bärli. He was very nervous about this new stranger.

I watched Bärli‘s body language; he didn’t want to turn around and so we continued, keeping our distance from the duck. We left the bridge and turned a different direction…but soon there were more geese…

I pulled out a handful of training treats, and we took a seat far from the geese (who had now been joined by some ducks). Barli was worried but not too nervous to enjoy the treats. He continued to watch Tiki’s reaction to the perceived threat; Tiki was ignoring the geese. Bärli started to relax and focused more on the treats.

Soon, we continued our walk. Bärli wanted to sniff the area where the geese had been walking so we spent some time exploring the goose droppings and fallen feathers.

On the way back, Bärli was curious and wanted to walk a bit closer to these once-scary creatures. He may not feel that they’re feathered friends…but they’re no longer frightening foes.