Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Out with the puppies, in with the puppies: a word about puppy brain development and socialization

Tak's puppies are getting so big! They're super fuzzy and feisty already. 

Puppy brains learn and develop most within the first four weeks of life. The more exposure puppies have to different environments, sounds, people and things, the more socialized they are to these changes. Because of this, we have begun working on a puppy pen, and shortly, Tak and her babies will move outside. They were three weeks old yesterday - it's amazing how fast those three weeks have gone by!

Toots (right, female) kissing her brother Tosh (left)
With the puppies moving outside, it was time for Mr. Miles, who is now eight months old, to move to his "big boy" house with the other boys in the dog yard.

Miles tethered out at his own dog house with his buddy, Yeti, in the distance. He's adjusting well to his circle.

We are all trying to lay low during these very hot days of summer. We had a bit of a reprieve from the heat, though, with a quick five-day mini-vacation up to our favorite place: the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, last week.

I went up initially for a talk I had in Tecumseh, Michigan. But, I figured, why not turn it into a little trip. It ended up being a fantastic socialization adventure for Mr. Miles.

We started our photo journey of the U.P. with a picture of the infamous wolf in the U.P. welcome center right after entering the Upper Peninsula.  Elise was not thrilled about this photo. :)

Sophie (left) and Elise (right) in front of the wolf at the UP welcome center
We then ventured up Route 2 where Miles' puppy socialization really began: we stopped to let Miles experience the beautiful shores of the crystal blue Lake Michigan.

This was all new to Miles, and he was a little afraid at first...
but soon, he felt at ease and loved playing and running full-throttle down the beach!

Miles loved watching Elise playing on the beach. I wonder what he was thinking?

Every opportunity for new experiences, smells, sights, people and places creates new connections in a young dog's brain, just like children learning about their world. Miles had plenty of experiences on this trip to forge lots of new pathways of socialization and experience, and he reacted beautifully to all the changes.

We hopped back in the truck and headed along Route 2 all the way through Manistique ... and visited the biggest, deepest, coldest of the Great Lakes: Lake Superior

Elise blissing out along a walkway to an old lighthouse on the Lake Superior coastline in Manistique, Michigan. Elise hasn't always taken changes in her own environment with ease, but she blossomed along the gorgeous deep blue waters of this vast great lake.
We finally arrived on Friday afternoon for our long-awaited visit to the home of Pete and Sharon Curtice and Ridge Runner Kennel in Rumley. Don't try to find Rumley on Google Maps: it's not listed. Elise and Sophie were super excited to play with Emily Curtice, who is the most mature, adventurous and capable nine year old I've ever known!
Emily Curtice plays chauffeur on a quad ride to pick raspberries with Elise
We picked up Daisy and Mace, two dogs from the Curtices kennel, in order to transport them all the way to Ohio where they would be picked up by their new owners and travel all the way to up state New York! After a wonderful night's sleep at the Curtice's, we were on our way again: this time to Newberry, the home of some of our favorite people, including Jan Shaw, and the Oswald Bear Ranch!

Elise (left) and Sophie (right bottom) got to pet a baby bear at the Oswald's Bear Ranch outside of Newberry, Michigan. That's me behind them :)
We spent some time visiting Jan and Bob Shaw and their Yooper-famous sled dogs at Arctic Wind Sled Dog Kennel.We love visiting Jan & Bob and all their dogs. Miles got to experience being in a strange, larger kennel and meeting more new people.

How many UP friends can one person squeeze into a five day visit? My friend Stan arrived at the Shaw's kennel and offered to take the girls and I out on his boat on Lake Superior. Unfortunately, it became chilly and windy, so we opted for pizza in Grand Marais instead. There, we hung out with Stan and his daughter, Laura, and I had the opportunity for more photos...

Once again, Miles went to new places and met new people, and did beautifully!

Finally, we left the U.P. and began the trek back down I-75 to Tecumseh, Michigan where I would be presenting our dogsledding talk, Backyard Iditarod, to the library. We had some time to kill, so spent the night in a hotel in Bay City, and Miles got to spend the night in a hotel room for the first time (and again, did beautifully).

The next day, our friend Anne Schneider Keller, the teen librarian at the library, sent me directions to a great sprinkler park/dog park for the kids AND Miles to let off some steam and get cool. By the time we arrived at the library, Miles was pooped!

Miles catching some ZZZs at our talk at the Tecumseh District Library. Photo courtesy of Anne Schneider Keller

Ultimately, the experiences Miles had last weekend will help him become a well-socialized, well-mannered educational dog for our programs. He's already become a perfect replacement for our original educational ambassador dog, Foxy, who is 15 1/2 and needs to retire fully.

What's more, we had the opportunity to forge our own memories of the U.P. and our favorite place. My only regret is that I wasn't here when Miles' brother, Theo, passed away unexpectedly. I can't help but think that if I had been here, he'd still be alive...

Until the next adventure...

1 comment:

  1. Maybe dogs, like people, choose the time and place of their death. Maybe Theo needed to wait till you were gone, the way people in hospice sometimes wait to pass until their family goes to get a bite to eat or goes home for the evening to rest. Who knows? Miles sure seems extraordinary, Shannon. He has since he was a couple days old, hasn't he?


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