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  • Writer's pictureLisa Buchanan

Puppy Insights: Socializing at the summer markets!

Outdoor market season is here and it is looking like a great one! I was at the first Midland Farmer's Market this morning with my dog, Mr. Darcy, to check out the fresh herbs, baked goods, smoked meats, wines and more. There were lots of other puppies and dogs also visiting this morning. I saw a lot of amazing strategies being used by the people of Midland to make sure the market experience was positive for everyone.

These were my top 3 observations:

  1. Everyone's dog was on leash. I also noticed that if a family had more than one dog, they had one handler per dog. Smart thinking!

  2. A few people stood off to the side with their dogs and observed the activities from a bit of a distance. Their dogs had relaxed bodies, ears and eyes. This is so insightful of you as an owner to recognize when your dog will be less stressed by having this extra space.

  3. We were all there first thing in the morning. As the day goes on, I expect the heat to become more intense and the number of visitors to increase. Going at a less busy time meant that we all had lots of room to give each other space when passing.

These were a few of the things I thought about before bringing my dog, Mr. Darcy:

  1. Was I going to be okay with leaving as soon as I arrived if something made us uncomfortable? YES! This was a close market and I had no specific needs other than a morning out.

  2. Has my dog had enough practice in smaller, less busy settings to be comfortable at the market? YES! He was well socialized as a young puppy visiting hardware stores, pet stores, and lots of homes.

  3. Will he be able to pay attention to me? YES. His is very reliable at checking in with me constantly. He looks back at me every minute or so; if the leash is tight he looks back to check in; if I say his name he comes back to me to check in, etc.

  4. Have I tested his responses in distracted situations? YES. We practice inside, outside, at shops and more.

I also thought about bringing our youngest, Churro, with me. If I consider those 4 points above, I would answer "yes" to points 1 and 4.

When I think about practice in settings outside the house; Churro was a nine month old puppy when she came to us and she is primarily with my son on social outings (we share custody lol!). He says she is great, but I haven't observed this myself. A public market isn't where I want to test this. Point number 3, paying attention to me, is also a "maybe" for me and Churro. She is a high energy herding breed dog who is very affected by everything hitting her senses. She smells, sees and hears it all at once. Knowing these things about her, as much as she doesn't like to be left behind, I decided that playing together at home later would be much more rewarding for her.

A great summer project for Churro and I will be to really solidify the other skills I mentioned. We are at the stage where I can take her to some stores at less busy times of day. I can take her to the market with me but with the sole purpose of just staying back and practicing some obedience cues from near by, playing some treat search games and just getting used to the space in a low stakes way. Like what some of those clever folks at the Midland Market were doing this morning!

The next time you are out shopping at the outdoor markets, take a look around at dogs and their families. You will definitely see things that you don't like. But, you will also see some things going really well. I'm a big fan of something called "appreciative inquiry". This is a strategy that means looking at a situation to find things that you want to repeat instead of looking for the things that are going wrong. When you see someone off to the side with their dog - think happy thoughts about them! They are probably putting their dog's needs first.



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