There’s Something Squishy Under My Little Puppy Paws!?

I may not always be learning something new when it comes to puppy training and raising, but I’m often reminded of something old that I may have forgotten (actually more like it was dormant) when raising a new puppy.

This past weekend we were puppy sitting an adorable little (actually big) puppy in training named Tagg.  Tagg is the type of puppy you dream of bringing home.  His mom is doing an awesome job raising him!  At only 7 months old he’s already very easy going, well behaved, very good out in public, and basically just a rock star puppy in training.  He isn’t without his faults.  He really liked picking up the leaves and grass in the backyard.  So we worked on his “leave it” command.  We also heard he’s a seasoned veteran when it comes to destroying his doggy toys.  We heard he destroyed his black KONG!  Now that’s quite a feat!

Different Puppy, Different Surface, Different Reaction

Pups Tagg and Duncan at GDA Booth

Pups Tagg and Duncan at GDA Booth

This weeks story starts with a visit to the Irvine Regional Park where Tagg and I went to help work a Guide Dogs of America (GDA) booth at the AHF Walk a Hound Lose a Pound event.  Working the GDA booth gives puppies in training a great chance to represent their school as well as work on meet and greets.  It also gives us puppy raisers a chance to tell people all about GDA, puppy raising, and the joys of volunteering.

Amanda and her GDA puppy, Penny (from the famed Penny Tales Facebook page) setup the booth for GDA as part of her Girl Scout gold award project.  Awesome job Amanda and Penny!

We arrived a bit late and things started winding down a bit early so we decided to take a walk through the park. If you haven’t been to Irvine Regional Park it’s a little more than just a park.  There’s a zoo, kids playground area, pony rides, mini train, tractor with hayrides, duck pond, and of course all the other excitement of a regular park.  Basically an awesome place for a puppy in training to see a few sights, sounds, and smells they would normally never come across.

Did I mention that Tagg is a Rockstar!  Nothing phased Tagg.  He had a great loose leash heel.  A few kids came up to say hello and he did an awesome sit-stay while receiving love and affection.  He didn’t care about the ponies, the whistle from the train, the loud noise and dust from the tractor.  Basically unphased by everything except…

While we walked through the park Tagg took one step on the sand and started hopping around like jackalope (do they hop?)  chased by a lion.  He reached down to grab a mouthful in excitement.  This wasn’t the first time I’d seen this reaction when puppies paws hit the sand.  I’m guessing it’s that squishy feeling pushing the webbing of their paws, but whatever it is it triggers some kind of crazy playtime in puppies.  Take a look at this video of Dublin:

Go to the 2:22 mark of the video

That’s a mini version of what Tagg did when his paws hit the sand.  By the way, its not just Tagg and Dublin,  Adelle did the same thing about a month ago when here paws first hit sand.  When I first took Stetson to the beach he did the same thing and much to my chagrin grabbed a mouthful of sand like it was strawberry cream pie!  I’m sure having sand stuck to the roof of Stetson’s mouth wasn’t the best feeling in the world.

All this jabber brings me to my point for today:

Expose Your Puppy’s Paws To Many Different Surfaces

It’s not something that was ever forgotten by me, but when you see a reaction like Tagg’s paws hitting the sand you are reminded to make sure and expose your puppy’s paws to many different surfaces.  Irvine Regional Park was a great place for this type of training as there are many different surfaces at the park you don’t see everyday.

Here’s a list of surfaces I’d recommend you make sure your puppy walks across during training:

Puppy Tagg Desert Landscape

Tagg sees lots of different surfaces back there in this desert landscape

  • Sidewalks
  • Dirt
  • Grass
  • Gravel
  • Rocks
  • Wood Chips
  • Sand
  • That squishy surface at the park playground
  • Hay
  • Black top
  • Snow – Dublin got to walk across the snow in this puppy in training video.
  • Tactile paving – the yellow bumpy things on the sidewalk.  Did you know these are used to alert people with visual impairments of their approach to streets and hazardous drop-offs?
  • The metal grates on sidewalks

By the way, some of these surfaces can get very hot such as metals and black tops so makes sure if it’s warm and sunny out to check and see if the surface you are working on with your dog is safe and will not burn his paws.  A good test is to put the back of your hand on the surface for about 5 seconds.  If it’s too hot for your hand then it’s too hot for your dogs paws.

Guide dog puppies in training should be exposed to all kinds of surfaces.  As working dogs our pup’s will likely run (or walk onto) pretty much every surface you can think of.  What about your pet dog?  If it were me I’d be doing the same thing with my family pet.  While your family pet may mostly stay at home or just in the neighborhood you never know when you’ll need to walk him across a gravel parking lot, a sandy beach, or a squishy, sandy playground.

Oh yeah, and those tactile paving strips?  Linus will not walk across them.  I rescued Linus from the animal shelter and unfortunately I never exposed him to the those strips and today he avoids them like the plague.  That behavior would probably get Linus dropped if he were a guide dog puppy in training.

Am I missing any important surfaces your dogs should learn to walk across?  If so, let me know about them in the comment section below.  Have you had any issues with your dog not wanting to walk across certain surfaces?