I grew up in a very rural environment. For many dogs, where I grew up would seem like a dog utopia. Leashes were relatively unheard of, and dogs just ran around, romping through the creeks and woods with the neighborhood kids. The perception of utopia was sometimes a mirage – that kind of hedonistic existence for a dog, where they are free to chase rabbits and deer, sniff, dig and roll to their heart’s content, occasionally came at the highest of prices – more than one of our “neighborhood dogs” ended up a victim to the road.
Our dogs were perfectly adapted (socially) to the environment where they lived.
We never really thought about socialization, nor were there incidents of dogs attacking people. Probably because the dogs were off leash and were faster than the people, able to get away when they felt they needed space. Also probably because I was raised with the mentality that if you got bit by a dog, you must have done something to provoke it; a philosophy in stark contrast with the modern view that “if a dog bites, he must be indiscriminately aggressive, is a threat to society, and must be ‘destroyed’.”
Now I live in the city. To be honest, I hate it. I miss the privacy, the acres of space, the fact that where I once lived, even a professional baseball player could not hit the nearest house with the longest of throws.
Jim and I have been thinking for quite some time that we want to move out of the city and purchase a space with land. Space for the dogs to run. Easy access to woods, creeks, ponds, fresh air, nature. I crave these things.
As we contemplate a move and begin preparing our suburban house for sale, I realized something very critical. When we do move, I wouldn’t be surprised if I were still making multiple trips weekly to my current neighborhood, just for the socialization experience.
My goal in raising Cuba is to have a dog I can take anywhere with me. A dog who relishes meeting a variety of people. A dog who likes someone with dark skin as much as he likes someone with lighter skin, a dog who likes a person in a wheelchair as much as he likes a skateboarder or jogger, a dog who likes kids and new dogs and new experiences. I want a confident, friendly, well-r0unded, adventurous pooch. A dog who is as comfortable camping in a tent miles from civilization as he is at a dog show surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of other dogs.
Where I live currently, I have virtually unlimited socialization opportunities for Cuba. Within a half mile of my home, I have access to an elementary school, a park, two play grounds, a baseball field, basketball field, mental health facility, nursing home, and shopping complexes. Within two miles of my home, I have access to an urban environment where I can take Cuba for a walk and he can meet over fifty people in a half hour socialization adventure.
These are things rural living cannot offer me.
Because I live in an urban environment, I take advantage of all the city has to offer me. Because I also want to live in a rural environment with Cuba eventually, I’ve had to leave the city and introduce him to “country life” – horses, cows, the scents, sights, sounds and creatures in that environment.
I’ve realized that if you want a dog you can take anywhere, you must take him EVERYWHERE when he is a puppy.
This means getting out of your comfort zone. Actually putting your dog in the car and driving beyond the bounds of your immediate neighborhood to give him new (positive) experiences.
The moral of the story is – if you are a city dweller raising a puppy, try to get him out of the city at least once a week and expose him to rural, natural settings. If you are “country folk” (as “country folk” myself, I mean that in the nicest possible way), take your dog into suburban and urban environments for enrichment and socialization.
If you give your dog more than you think they need when it comes to enrichment and socialization, they will give you more than you dreamed possible in terms of confidence and comfort in a wide variety of environments. This will give you a dog that can go anywhere with you, even if it means leaving your collective comfort zone.