Day 45 – May 21, 2023: fresa Condesa, puppy’s first time IN a dog park, teaching relaxation and playground time

It’s Sunday, and it’s the day of the monthly Sungay Brunch (a traveling queer and somewhat fresa daytime brunch party thing I occasionally go). It’s always at a dog friendly location which makes it perfect to socialize your puppy!

Today was Chai’s first time. We went to Parque España first to get some of our need to move out!

Parque España and fresa Zuzu’s.

There’s lots to see at Parque España!

We also watched kids at the playground (normalizing kids running and screaming is a big deal for herding dogs!)

Playground puppy! “Kids are normal and boring and there’s no need to develop herdy feelings towards them.”

Dog park puppy!

I then spontaneously let Chai into a dog park for the first time in her life. It wasn’t too busy and she wanted to greet one of the dogs inside – so why not. She’s not a baby puppy anymore (I wouldn’t take a dog under 5 months to the dog park because they can’t get away or defend themselves at all.) A slightly older, bolder puppy? If she wants to go into the dog park – into the dog park we go!

In the video below, you’ll see how Chai’s tail position changes after the first 2ish minutes in the park: it starts out low but then goes up. A working Border Collie’s natural tail position is low when relaxed. However, when confident and exploring new territories – and overall when confident and being a puppy! – the tail tends to go down and up with the puppy’s confidence level.

I use the opportunity to charge Chai’s formal recall cue – “Schnee!” – in a distracting environment and protect her from the Great-Dane-mix-looking dog when he comes too close for her to be comfortable. My overall advice for a fairly confident puppy: allow them to explore freely. If they stick to you or hide behind you, they are asking for help – give them what they are asking for in order to turn yourself into a traveling safe haven for your dog. This is HUGE and will help you as they get older (and faster and more independent): you are building the tendency to run TOWARDS rather away from you in the face of perceived danger.

Sidenote: if your puppy is a bully, don’t take them to the dog park. It’s not fair to everyone else there. Instead, find opportunities for your puppy to socialize with adult dogs who can set appropriate boundaries.

The art of doing nothing

After our stint at the park, we made our way to Zuzu’s Rooftop – the location of today’s Sungay Brunch. Chai did an amazing job mastering the initially scary stairs! And then just hanging out … my little superstar! Practicing the art of doing nothing since 2023!

One of THE most important skills for a busy dog like many Border Collies and other workaholics is the art of doing nothing. There are several ways of getting there and you can mix and match. One example is what I showed here and also here with Puzzle: mat work CU style. Another one is what I show in my older mat and crate protocol: part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4. And yet another one is just taking your puppy places when they still need a relatively large amount of sleep and setting them up for success by letting them play or run around a little before providing a mat and a chew in a stimulating environment – this is what I’m doing in the video above, in this post. You can stick to one of the above approaches or use all of them in different situations – whatever works for you and your dog! There are also other protocols out there such as Karen Overall’s Protocol for Relaxation. None of these are “right” or “wrong,” “better” or “worse” – it’s all about finding what works best for you and the dog in front if you!

3 caveats

+ First, don’t only crate your dog in a car and expect them to be able to relax in a crate elsewhere. Cars are VERY specific contexts and in my experience, dogs don’t generalize well from them.

+ Second, don’t exhaust your dog completely before taking them to a stimulating place to relax (like in the video with Chai above). She still has fuel to keep going – our stint at Parque España was not much longer than it took me to film the video and take the pictures! If your puppy falls asleep due to exhaustion, this does not tend to carry over into real relaxation once they are a little older (and don’t get exhausted easily). Trust me – I’ve made that mistake with Phoebe!

+ Third, if your dog is fearful, don’t start with crazy environments like the one in my video above. Pick a quiet corner of an indoors space or a quiet park – whatever your dog is more comfortable with – and slowly increase criteria from there once your dog is able to relax!

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