Friday, April 19, 2013

Krypto Chronicles: Socialization

Here's a partial list of what I've been getting Krypto socialized to. Keep in mind that with each of these, whenever possible, I paired up the experience with the tastiest treats I had.*

*Krypto started off perfectly happy getting pieces of turkey Natural Balance.  But after a couple of stressful times when he wouldn't take them, I started using little pieces of hot dogs.  Now he's turned into a little foodie snob and won't take the Natural Balance at all - he's holding out for hot dogs.  During this socialization period, I want the best association possible, so I'm letting him call the shots, but later on in a couple of months, I'll probably switch back to Natural Balance and tell him it's that or nothing.  NB is just easier and cheaper than hot dogs.

Day 1:
  • Being in a crate in a car
  • Vets and veterinary rooms
  • Being handled by the vet
  • Walking on grass
  • Walking on asphalt and gravel
  • Walking on dirt

Day 2:
  • Lots of men.  I've met a thousand dogs that people tell me "He's afraid of men."  I've met, like, one dog that someone told me "She doesn't like women."  I suspect that this is because women are constantly rushing up to say hi to puppies but men don't nearly as much.  So, I'm taking a special effort to have Krypto meet and be handled by men of all sorts.  Day 2 Krypto mostly met white men and a few Hispanics.
  • Women

  • Stairs (you'd be surprised how many dogs I meet that completely freak out over stairs when they see them for the first time in their adult life)
  • Going inside a bookstore
  • Walking along Ventura Blvd - lots of traffic noises and cars and buses going by.
  • Walking by other dogs
  • Calmly meeting dogs.  I have Krypto do a Sit for me with a food lure before letting him meet another dog.  After a minute of sniffing around, I lure him away with another treat and tell him what a great dog he is and we walk away.  I made the mistake with Derby of letting her play too much with other dogs (and with Trooper and BeBop).  Consequently, she loves dogs but she still gets far too excited about them and rushes forward.  Krypto is going to be a big dog - I want to reward and encourage calm behavior early and often.

Day 3:

  • Even more men.  This time I was in a different part of town and was able to find more people of color.  One very large, bald black man was a little surprised when I walked up and asked him to play with my puppy.  "Why?" he asked suspiciously.  His girlfriend just laughed and said, "What, are you afraid the puppy will bite you?"  I explained about socialization and how it's important to meet people of all races and types.  He was chill.  All in all, I found men with beards, hats, sunglasses, black, Hispanic, Asian and all different kinds of clothing.
  • Even more women.  Black, Hispanic, Asian, short hair, long hair, long dresses, purses
  • Walking on sand (at a local playground)
  • Meeting children at the playground.

  • Playing with a dog.  He met a friendly same-size slightly older puppy at the park.  I dropped his leash and let him romp a bit.  At the end, I lured him away with a treat.  Whenever possible, I prefer a dog to move itself voluntarily rather than be pulled by a leash.  Leash pull = unpleasant association with other dog.  Following a treat = pleasant association with ending play time.

Day 4:

  • Molly's work.  I couldn't take care of Krypto Wednesday, so Molly took him to work with her.  He played with another dog there, and met lots of new people and got exposed to parking lots and even more traffic.

Day 5:

  • The comic shop!  Derby is already a favorite there, and I can guarantee Krypto will be showing up a lot, so better get him started now.

  • The patio at The Counter restaurant while I had lunch
  • Brooms and sweeping - someone was cleaning up the patio and Krypto wasn't too sure about the broom.  A few treats every time the man moved the broom, though, convinced him that all was well.
  • Skateboards - I took Krypto to the local skate park and sat for about 10 minutes while some kids did some tricks near us.  Derby got very freaked out by some skateboarders at a young age, and I want to make sure 75+ lb adult Krypto doesn't have any problem with them.  I'll probably go back several times just to make sure.
  • Sliding down a plastic slide at an empty playground I passed.  Did this on a whim, and gave him lots of treats.  He seemed totally cool with it.

Day 6

  • Riding in a car not  in a crate.  While I will have him crated almost all the time in the car while he's still a puppy, as an adult, he'll ride in the back seat like all the rest of the dogs have.  (I know, I should be using a dog seat belt.  I offer no excuses, it's just the way we travel.)  So I want him to have some experiences of being in the car.  Like Derby at his same age, he prefers being down on the floorboard of the front passenger seat.  He was a little nervous about it, but cheese whiz cures all ills.

  • Riding in the car with the top down, as well as watching it open and close.  Again, I don't plan to ever ride around with the top down with Krypto in the car, but just in case, I don't want him getting freaked out and leaping out of the car.  I did this very slowly around the block a couple of times. 
  • The vacuum cleaner.  This was a lot easier than I expected.  He was very slightly nervous at first, but after just a couple of treats he was totally calm with it.

  • Loud banging noises.  I made a metal tether for him, which involves hammering a piece of metal to make a loop in the cable.  Each time I hammered, I gave him a treat or two.  

  • Big crowds of people.  I took him to The Grove, a very busy shopping center in Hollywood.  Lots and lots of people walking by constantly.  Lots of little kids.  Lots of people stopping to say how cute he is.
  • Trolleys
  • Electric wheelchairs
  • Animated fountains of water (like the Bellagio in Vegas)
  • Screaming teenage girls.  Seriously.  Trolleys, honking horns, splashing water, hammering - nothing phased him.  But at the Grove one teen girl sees a friend and screams at the top of her lungs and completely startles Krypto.  I just start popping hot dog pieces into his mouth - hot dog, hot dog, hot dog, hot dog.  He relaxes and we play a bit and it all worked out fine, but good grief.  I'm not desensitized to screaming teenage girls, how do I expect him to be?

Wow.  I know there's a lot more that I'm forgetting.  For instance, there's a lot more dogs I didn't mention.  And probably a lot of other more specific things that are slipping my mind right now.  But the point is that I'm not even close to done.  In addition to just making sure that he continues to meet scores of other people and dogs (but only dogs I feel confident will give him a positive experience), there are so many other experiences I want him to have during the next three weeks.

Going to a gun range
Riding in a shopping cart
Hula hoops - jumping through them, having them fall and rattle around
Pots and pans being dropped and banging loudly
Petting zoo animals of all types
Rain (not sure how I'll manage this)
The ocean
A forest
The carousel at Griffith Park
A train

Please offer suggestions in the comments!


  1. Garden hose
    Street Musicians
    Street performers
    Outdoor BBQ grill at Handy Market
    People in costumes
    Farmers market

    1. Great suggestions! We just went to Griffith Park this morning and Krypto saw the giant drum circle there ("Street Musicians," kinda). And yesterday our neighbor had his sprinklers on, so Molly walked him through those, and the day before, the same neighbor was watering his flowers with his garden hose, so Krypto got to stick his nose in the stream to get a hot dog piece.

      I'll get him to the Handy Market grill this week - excellent idea. (And a fantastic market, too.) Next week, I'll walk him around the Studio City Farmers Market.

      Snakes - actually, I think I'd rather he be nervous about snakes.

  2. I hope to get a small dog in the near future. Certainly wish you offered services in Seattle.

    1. Seattle is practically a dog training Mecca. You've got some of the world's great trainers in your town! Here's a couple to get you started. If neither one is close to you, you can trust their recommendations on a trainer near you:

      * Kathy Sdao -
      * Grisha Stewart -