Ok.. this is a minor little success, but considering the fact that we weren't even scent training yet I was pretty surprised and happy.
Gunny hasn't had much exposure to people up to this point. Pretty much the only people he's been around before we got him were the breeder, her husband, and a couple of trips to the vet for shots. They lived out in a rural area and there just weren't any other people milling around.
He's very friendly toward people, but initially (especially in large, noisy crowds) he's a little hesitant at first. He'll shy away from people until he's sure they aren't gonna smack him. Once he's over that initial hiccup then he's all lovey-dovey. To help socialize him and get him used to lots of different situations I'm taking him places with me on my days off. Shopping areas, parks, that sort of thing.
Thursday night we visited a local park. This is a huge park with long walking paths and multiple playgrounds and soccer fields. Lots of soccer teams were playing and the parking lot had well over a hundred cars and trucks parked in it. We found a spot to park and proceeded to take a walk to work on our leash training and people meeting skills. He did pretty good, although people pushing baby strollers still freak him out a little.
Our initial route to the sidewalk/walking path led us from the parking spot north across the pavement about 30 yards to a grassy area. Once on the grass we cut east along a line of trees for about 50 yards before arcing across a wider area of grass to the concrete trail. We walked all over the walking paths and when we got back to the area where we first entered the trail on our way back - Gunny quickened his pace and immediately left the pavement and started across the grass at exactly the point we had entered the trail earlier. When I noticed this I gave him lots of slack on the leash and let him find his own way so I wouldn't be subconciously influencing where he chose to go.
If you've ever parked your car at an unfamiliar mall or stadium and had trouble finding your ride home, you'll appreciate how difficult a task that can be even for humans to do. Not so much trouble if you're a bloodhound :)
He retraced our path across the grassy area, along the treeline, and across the pavement of the parking lot right up to the passenger door of the Tacoma where it sat among the other cars in the parking lot. He sat down facing the door and looked back at me waiting for me to open it. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked.
I praised the hell out of him :)
I'm even more anxious to get him started on trailing exercises now. He'll be three months old this week. As soon as we get him a little more socially comfortable around people and strange places, we should be good to go. Don't want any more distractions from the trailing work than necessary.