I’m not sure why the local mall decided to have a pet-friendly day but I’m glad they did. It’s a great chance for socialization.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of socialization, it’s the idea that puppies must be exposed to as many new things as possible in their first few months so they remain comfortable and secure throughout their lives. It’s the idea behind taking assistance dogs everywhere as puppies, so nothing–not escalators, not grates, not buses–are shocking or scary to them when they’re working with their human partner.
At ten weeks, by taking her to the mall, Honey got to meet a woman in a wheelchair, experience large crowds, and walk on slippery floors. Dog behaviorists recommend introducing your puppy to 100 new people in the first month she’s with you. I think Honey met 100 people just in one day at the mall.
So when I saw Pet Expo day was returning to the mall, we had to do a follow-up to see if Honey was still comfortable in that environment. Plus, I wanted to see how she’d do in a place crowded with other dogs if she was not allowed to play with everyone she saw. Can Honey walk past a small child or lively dog without pulling and can she keep her attention on me when needed?
Here’s our first attempt at a long sit-stay. We’re off the beaten track a little bit where there are a number of people walking by but no dogs. I dropped her leash but stayed pretty close just in case something proved too tempting. I’m pleased to say she stayed the entire time with few signs of stress (but her wrinkled eyebrows show this isn’t easy).
Honey greeted dogs and people very nicely and did a good job of listening when I told her to “leave it.” I’m very proud of her. The training we’ve been doing is paying off and I think she’ll be ready for BlogPaws at the end of the summer.
I have a pet theory that if dogs were allowed more places, we’d have better behaved dogs.
- Some people, after being embarrassed enough by their dogs out in public, would undertake training that they don’t need to do if they only keep their dogs at home.
- Out in public, dogs would get the mental stimulation they need to make them tired.
- Constant exposure to new places and activities would teach dogs to feel comfortable in a variety of settings.
I even saw how this Pet Expo at the mall would be a good chance to work with a fearful dog.
When we arrived, I took Honey down a long quiet corridor to get her used to the new setting without having to encounter lots of other dogs and people. We sat on a bench and watched from a distance until Honey appeared calm and focused.
The corridor off the main mall was a great place to sit quietly and to click and treat a fearful dog without being too close to the action. If this chance had come up when Shadow was living with us, we would have never left the quiet corridor and it still would have been worth the time.
I hope the mall decides to continue the Pet Expo each year. It was good exposure for local rescues with dogs and cats available for adoption. And it was wonderful to have such a good training opportunity before the weather gets warm enough for outdoor activities.
Would you like your local mall to create a pet-friendly day? Why not ask them? If you do get such a chance, make sure you set your dog up for success. Here’s what Honey and I did:
- Took a long walk before getting to the mall so Honey had already gotten some exercise.
- Entered the mall in an area I knew would be quieter and gave Honey a chance to get acclimated before being tossed in among lots of strange dogs and people.
- Brought really good treats to reinforce good behavior.
- Rewarded Honey with some play time with an amenable pup after she showed good impulse control throughout the visit.
- Stayed only a short time.
Do you have any pet-friendly days in your area that provide this kind of socialization and training opportunity? Do you take advantage of it? Do tell.
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