My plans for today were simple. I was going to get gas at Wood's, then head in to East Lansing and do some people watching with Ellie along Grand River. She would meet 4395345 million college students who would coo and cuddle with her, she would see scooters and golf carts and bikers and rollerbladers and people dressed in hats and with backpacks and all kinds of stuff and that would be another check mark on her socialization to-do list.
It didn't quite work out that way.
I got gas, Ellie met two new attendants at Woods, and then off we went to East Lansing.
Campus was absolutely dead compared to what it's usually like. Why? Because I'm an idiot and forgot what the DATE IS. Hellooooo, earth to me, it's May 24th and most college classes are done with--and if they aren't, all the important stuff is out of the way and most students aren't bothering to show up anymore. Once classes are out for the summer, campus is like a desert during the week. You have to wait until the weekends for it to get anywhere near as busy as it is during the year on weekdays.
Sigh. It wasn't a complete loss. She did get to see a golf cart roll by, she got to see people biking by, and she got to hear the crazy traffic that is Grand River and the main thoroughfare through town into Lansing. She was a little spooked by the city buses, but, as is typical, recovered quickly. She didn't meet any people, just watched everyone walk by.
So then I thought, well, that was mostly a dud, but why don't we head to a local park, so she can get used to kids? We got to the park ...
No kids. Completely empty. I waited an hour for someone to pull into the park, which should have been busy on a nice sunny day like today, but no one came. I made the best of it and walked her around and on the playground equipment. She thought the wood chip-covered ground was the greatest thing ever and had lots of fun tossing wood chips around. She went down two types of slides with me and alone (following after me), one was an open rolly one and the other was a covered, tunnelish one that spiraled around.
Occasionally, I get caught off-guard by how smart she is, even now. She didn't want to go down the slide alone the first time, so what did she do? Instead of doing what Kane would do and sucking it up, hoping for the best, and going down the slide anyways--she went all the way around down the stairs to greet me at the bottom of the slide where I was waiting for her. Sneaky little bugger.
I put her on top of one of the tables to get used to the grated texture of it (does anyone else hate those sort of tables? They're so uncomfortable and my elbows always hurt afterwards) and then set her on a swing and gently rocked her back and forth. She was definitely not so sure about that; I didn't want to force her to like it so was about to pick her up off it ... when she made a FLYING LEAP off the swing bottom and took my heart with her. She stumbled, face-planted, shook herself off, and ran up to me as if to say, Look what I did, ma! I, meanwhile, tried to remember to breathe. lol.
So, at this point, I was frustrated that my efforts to socialize Ellie with people today were not going right. At all. I thought about all the tips I've read on where to take puppies to socialize them and remembered one of the more popular tips is to go to a Wal-mart or other grocery store and sit outside. I don't know anyone who's done this, and haven't heard any stories of someone doing this online, so I wondered if it even worked.
Worth a shot, right? Bundled her up and off we went to sit in front of Wal-mart.
It went a lot better than I thought it would, and I would definitely recommend it to others in the future--as long as you can stand the occasional Look from people who wonder what the heck you're doing.
She quickly got used to the sliding doors opening and closing (pretty loudly, actually) and the cart-boys bringing in the long lines of carts from outside. She also met a few kids, including one 4-5-6 year old boy that was very inquisitive but didn't know (or remember) the proper way to pet a dog until I showed him. He squealed happily, spooking Ellie who hid behind my legs. Only to dash out a couple seconds later, little butt wiggling as she sprawled in front of him for a belly rub. There were a few other times she spooked, as well. Once for a tall, older man with a cap on, another for a woman carrying her sleeping toddler, and another for a black woman with a really large purse and several bags she was struggling to carry (but who still made time to set them all down and reassure Ellie).
Ellie met ~10-15 people which is nowhere near as many as I had planned and wanted her to meet today, but I was just thankful I could manage to salvage even a tiny bit of this day.
One thing I noticed is that most people either: 1) walked by without a comment ("I don't know what you're doing sitting in front of Wal-mart with your dog, so I'm going to pretend you aren't there and walk by without making eye contact, please don't make any sudden moves crazy dog lady") (I feel comfortable saying these were mostly men), or 2) walked by with a comment, but nothing else ("I would feel rude walking by you without acknowledging you, so I'm going to make a polite comment about your dog and keep walking") (and these were mostly women).
I wish more men would coo over dogs. I know they don't want to be seen making googoo eyes and kissy noises to a fluffball puppy in front of Wal-mart, but I would appreciate if they'd make an exception for me. lol. ;-) I also wish more people felt comfortable asking me if they could pet her; I could usually tell if they really wanted to but were unsure because they'd make a comment and slow down a little, so I made it easier for them and asked them directly.
I'm super worried about not socializing Ellie as much as I can.
I really lucked out with Kane, re: socialization to people. He has a great, awesome temperament which helps him overcome the total and absolute lack of socialization we (my ex and I) gave Kane and Roxie (Kane's littermate sister, who is now with the ex). We had lots of people come over to our apartment and hang out--but they tended to be the same people, and we never took them out into public to parks or on walks through campus or ANYthing. My ex thought it was "dumb" that I took Kane to the dog park. Yeah. Glad I got out of that relationship, lol.
You can see their lack of socialization more on Roxie's part; her temperament isn't as good and she was always the more reserved one. Nowadays, you can't walk up to her without her barking at you unless she already knows you. I miss her though. Sigh. I was always the one to take care of the dogs, training, feeding, playing with them, and I've only seen Roxie once in the five months since I've broken up with the ex. It was ~2 months ago, I thought for sure she'd forget me, but once I said her name, she was all wiggly happiness and I about drowned in doggy kisses.
So now I'm trying to make up for Kane's lack of socialization and do it right this time. Like I said, I lucked out with Kane, and lucky lightning doesn't strike twice. :-)
Clicker training is going great. I didn't get as much time today to do it since, you know, we were out NOT SOCIALIZING WITH PEOPLE. *grumps* But she will sit for the hand signal now and is about 50/50 on the verbal command. Hand signals are another thing I'm trying to make up for with her versus Kane, who doesn't know any hand signals besides "touch", which doesn't really count because the hand signal IS the signal. Tomorrow, I'm going to focus mainly on clicker training--that and getting her to recognize her name, still. LOL.
I've been debating whether to teach her name the way I did it with Kane (lots of cuddling and saying it over and over again) or doing it with the clicker. I kind of really like doing it the cuddly way. Fun for both of us. :-)
Ellie is still house-training herself, lol. No accidents today again. She's getting better about sleeping through the night; I've gotten better about telling whether she's whining because she needs to go out or because she woke up and has to fall asleep again. She can usually last until 4am before having to go (I can't wait until she sleeps through 4am, lol). For some reason, she has trouble sleeping straight through the rest of the morning; she'll get up ~every 2 hours and whine for 2-3 minutes before settling back down to sleep again.
Today, I got out her different brushes (pin-head, slicker, shedding rake) for her to get used to. She really enjoyed it, didn't put up much of a fuss except for the occasional bite to the brush. I didn't get much hair off her as she still has her puppy coat. I had to be careful around her belly as she only has fur on her chest (not her belly/groin area), and what fur she did have was only the guard hairs, not the fluffy undercoat.