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Why You Should Introduce Your Puppy To Different Surfaces

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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 easygoing, 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!

Why You Should Introduce Your Puppy To Different Surfaces

Pups Tagg and Duncan at GDA Booth
Pups Tagg and Duncan at the GDA Booth

This week’s 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) set up 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 a 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, it’s not just Tagg and Dublin,  Adelle did the same thing about a month ago when her paws first hit the 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 every day.

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
  • Blacktop
  • 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 make sure 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 dog’s paws.

Guide dog puppies in training should be exposed to all kinds of surfaces.  As working dogs, our pups 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 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?

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  1. That’s true…you never know what will happen. One other thing I’d like to bring up is even though we’ve worked on different surfaces with all of our guide dog puppies they all have a different reaction. I’m always reminded that every puppy and dog are different. Don’t always expect the same reaction from one puppy to the next.

  2. Great advice, I give my clients the same advice about teaching their dogs to sit on different surfaces, like grass, sand, gravel, and even freshly cut hay fields. You never know when it’s going to happen, but with all things dog,..it surely will. Thanks for sharing

  3. Dublin lives in Arizona and has to wear booties in the summer time. I was surprised he had no problem wearing them. I thought for sure he’d try to pull them off his paws. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Good point on the sand!

    When I was out on a walk with Linus we came across a long strip of the yellow tactile paving. He refused to walk on it. I zig zagged back in forth over the tactile surface. Linus proceeded to jump over the strips like it was hot lava.

  5. Hey Colby

    How cool you had a furry houseguest! 🙂

    Great tip about the hot surfaces, my Mum always tries to make sure we don’t get caught out with those, she even tries to make me wear silly boots, but I won’t go near them! Tee Hee

    I hope you’re having a fun day,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

  6. What a great post Colby! I would add check the sand too, because that can get very hot as well.

    As a puppy we exposed Sampson to so many things, but one thing we did not was a grate type material that was used on a rail road track bridge. We encountered this one day while hiking and he was so terrified, he trembled and we simply turned around rather than traumatize him. It’s so important whether they are becoming guide dogs or not. You never know when you will encounter something out of the ordinary.

  7. Hi Clare,

    That’s a great point. It’s a good idea to take puppies in training up and down different types of stairs. One of the most important types to look for are open stairs (the kind you can see through). You can often times come across these types of stairs at parking structures and a lot of times they are made of metal.

    I never really thought about plywood…we’ll have to add that to our list!


  8. Different surfaces on steps are a good idea. I took my puppy-in-training to a safe play structure and had her walk up the steps, which were all made of different material.
    Walking across plywood is also a good idea.

  9. Amanda is an awesome puppy raiser and her parents are so supportive! Her puppy, Penny is almost done with her training and will go to Guide Dog College towards the end of this month.

  10. That’s a great one! We have our puppy kindergartens on slippery linoleum flooring. The linoleum makes teaching some things a bit easier as they easily learn to slide from a sit to a down. Also, when we work on heeling our pup’s have difficulty pulling which is a good thing.

  11. That’s a good point. Linus is pretty good about not going into the street. My only worry with Linus is his high prey drive. If he saw a squirrel run across the street he would be sure to follow no matter what we taught him.

  12. Such a great post, and such a great reminder! Also cool that the Girl Scouts helped set up the booth. I was a Girl Scout back in the day, and I would’ve enjoyed a project like that.

  13. A lot of our dogs have had issues with slippery linoleum flooring. Most Greyhounds never encounter it as puppies and a lot of people take it for granted. But I’ve seen several dogs that absolutely refused to walk on it, either because of the reflection and shininess or because it was really slippery. It’s so easy to forget that our dogs react differently to some of that stuff.

  14. My parents don’t let their little Yorkie walk on the black top/street so that she wont run into the street (and possibly get run over). Great for a pet, but I’m sure career ending for a Guide Dog or Service Dog.

    Great article!

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