When I was new to puppy-raising, I couldn’t wait for Tucker to get old enough (four months) to begin taking him out in public. The thought of waltzing into my Vons or a movie theater with my well-trained, adorable little canine companion tickled me, plus I imagined how happy I would be to be able to avoid leaving him at home while I was out running errands or engaging in various activities. Once we began venturing forth together, I did enjoy it at first, maybe even more than I had anticipated, as I learned how much my encounters with random strangers would increase. I still get a lot of pleasure from those social encounters, some of which I wrote about just the other day. After a while, however, I also began to appreciate how much taking a puppy along complicates any activity.
Even when a dog has reached the point of being very well behaved (as Beverly is now), he or she requires constant attention, if just to ensure that no temporarily loss of mind (or memory) has occurred. If I need to go out and buy a new pair of running shoes, for example, I do not enjoy making sure that Beverly maintains a perfect Down Stay, while I try on different pairs. And as charming as her fans can be, they also slow one down.
Over the years, I’ve found myself wanting less often to take along my current trainee. Steve, who does it more often, sometimes chastises me for what he sees as my puppy-raising lapses. The issue came up again on Friday.
That afternoon we were supposed to join a dozen or so old friends to take a tour of the art at the San Diego Library’s central branch (downtown) — both the permanent collection and a current exhibit on local printmakers. After the tour, we planned to adjourn to a nearby gastropub with the aim of discussing some of what we’d seen. I was dubious about taking Beverly along for all this, but Steve wanted to and pledged to pay close attention to her.
It worked out well. She behaved flawlessly, got some good practice going up and down in elevators, and even was reasonably good under the dinner table. Steve did have to pay a bit less attention to both the art and our friends than he might have, had he not been working with Beverly. But on this particular occasion, he didn’t mind.
I wondered how other veteran puppy-raisers look at this question which comes up so often (“take her along — or leave her home in the kennel?”) So yesterday, when I took Beverly and Tucker to the twice-monthly puppy social hosted by one of the puppy-raisers, I made a point of asking four people about it. Three of the four had years more experience than me, with many successful graduates to their credit. I was intrigued that all four focused on the merits of NOT taking one’s puppy along.
One pointed out how the dogs really need to get accustomed to extended time alone in their kennels in preparation for their Advanced Training up in Oceanside (where they spend a lot of time in between training exercises kenneled). Another insisted that when she began puppy-raising, she’d been explicitly instructed not to take her dog along unless she could pretty much give it her full attention and be ready to return home at any moment. “Otherwise, if the dog is doing things it shouldn’t be doing and you’re not correcting it, it’s learning that that’s okay.” They all were adamant.
I didn’t walk away vowing to cut back on the number of outings on which we take Beverly. Steve and I still believe that the dogs benefit a lot from their forays into the world. But hearing those arguments in favor of leaving one’s pup at home in her kennel did change my mind about taking Beverly to the Oscar party we’ll be heading to in a few minutes. Steve’s going to be helping the host with the cooking, and I’m going to be mesmerized by the outfits and speeches and bad jokes. Plus I’ve come to suspect that Beverly is sometimes just as happy to rest, at home.