Monday, May 8, 2023

Maybe: Should I Take My Dog?

Meet Alfy! He is one of my online Service Dog Clients. Here Alfy is the perfect picture of confidence although that wasn't the case not so long ago. While today's blog is not specifically about Alfy's situation or how he has overcome his fearfulness, I wanted to share this confident picture to demonstrate why we wait until our dog and our teamwork is stronger before going into challenging situations.

Making the Big Decision
Do I take my puppy/dog to ______?
In order to answer this question we have to consider a few puzzle pieces to help us build the bigger picture.

1. How will my pup feel in this environment? Scared, overwhelmed, excited, over-excited, calm & collected? We really need to be careful taking out dogs, especially adolescents into environments that will overwhelm or over-excite them. Large emotional reactions lead to developing behaviors we humans tend not to like; pulling, barking, lunging, etc.
2. Is the environment pet friendly? While this may vary from community to community, most generally outdoor events are pet friendly unless there is a specific reason not to be. Places selling food may be off limits to pets. Places with large numbers of people (1,000 or more) will often have a no pets policy for safety reasons. Places that will have other animals present often have restrictions for pets. It's important to know these restrictions before deciding to take your pet.
3. What is YOUR role at this activity? Do you have things you have to accomplish or are you able to simply leave if your dog is having a hard time. If you are going to a farmers market to get veggies and your ok with the thought of walking away empty handed, then perhaps it's ok to take your pup. But if you NEED to accomplish that task, perhaps it's not the best day to see how your dog does in that environment. If you're taking the kids to the lake, will you be able to help them while you manage the leash? If you're going to an outdoor concert to here your grandchild sing, will you enjoy that if your dog is scared, barking, or trying to greet every person there? We are used to multi-tasking, but we don't handle the disappointment of looking forward to something then being too busy to enjoy it. So don't set yourself up for that disappointment by deciding to take your pup to a place that your already busy.

Training Your Dog to Be Successful in Pet Friendly Places.
If you want to take your dog with you this summer camping, to the lake, to the farmers market or any other community spaces, you need to prepare them for that activity. There are a few training steps you can take no matter what the environment will be.
1. Develop good teamwork skills between you and your dog. This helps you let the dog know what you expect from them in that environment. The first skill you should develop is loose leash walking. The other possible skills are endless. 
2. Determine the skills you will need to use in the environment you will be going. If you're going camping, you may want to condition your dog to sleep in a new place (tent, camper, etc.), condition them to a longline or tie out as "off leash" probably will not be allowed, and teach your dog to stay away from dangerous things such as a grill or fire pit. If you'll be sitting and socializing a lot, you may want to train your dog to settle beside your chair while other people move around you. 
3. Build up slowly! Whatever training you do, needs to start at home and slowly build up in different environments. Perhaps practicing skills in the neighborhood on your walk will help or at the local park? If you will be teaching your dog to chill while you eat, go on a few picnics starting in low distraction environments. If you're going to a community concert, you may want to condition your dog to lots of clapping, so you can do that at home, at sporting events and other outdoor places where groups gather. Building up to the environment you want to take your dog can help you both enjoy the experience together.

If you rush it and take your dog with you into environments your not prepared for, you set yourself and your dog up for frustration and struggles that could have been avoided. We can help you set up for success so you both have a great summer! Contact us at to get your summer training plan started.

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