After reading Brad Pattison Unleashed, I felt it was time to take my boys to the dog park. Gabe has not been well socialized and it became a Catch-22. He wasn't socialized because I was scared to take him to the dog park, but because I was scared to take him, he wasn't socialized. I had hoped that obedience classes would help (we went when he was 3), but the instructor didn't really care about socializing his class (meanwhile, in the puppy class next door, all the little ones were chasing each other and tumbling around, making friends).
Gabe was my main concern, but I also worried about Archie. He spooks easily and doesn't listen to me when he's in that scary place in his mind. He was also a fence-jumper when he first joined our family, determined to see the world, and I'm not convinced that wanderlust is totally eradicated.
However, Brad Pattison makes strong arguments for taking your dogs to the dog park. His arguments make sense, and it was something I've always wanted to do .... I just didn't have the confidence - in myself, or in my dogs.
My worries were largely for naught. Gabe barks a bit when we get there. I think it's mostly excitement, "Whoo hoo! I'm here! I'm really here!" His fur stands up sometimes when dogs sniff him up, but he pretty much puts up with it. He even put up with a very rude pit bull that was absolutely determined to hump him. (Gabe was extremely embarassed by this, sitting down and hunching up, looking sheepish - his body language was clear, even to me!)
Archie was not impressed the first few times we went. He kept running back to the gate, wanting to go home. He doesn't do that anymore, but he certainly sticks close by. And, both of them give me no attitude when it's home time - in fact, they usually head to the gate before I do.
I'm proud of my boys - and you know what? I'm proud of me too. I regret that it took us this long to do it, but now that we're there, we're not turning back.
We went again this weekend, and met up with Annie and her family. Annie was a foster beagle who lived with us from November 2008 to April 2009. It was lovely to see her and her people, and her brother Zeus too :-)