|FLD Gus on his first trip to the grocery store in September.|
"May I pet your puppy?"
This is the most-often-asked question I get when I'm out and about with FLD Gus. He is just too adorable in his red, white, and blue "Future Leader Dog" bandana.
Unfortunately, this question SHOULD get asked even more frequently than it does, and should be asked BEFORE the asker is "dive-bombing" FLD Gus with waggling fingers while squealing in baby-talk, "What a sweet little puppy you are!" With over-stimulation such as this, it is practically impossible to expect FLD Gus to sit calmly at my side and resist a swift taste of those jiggling digits.
However, FLD Gus must learn to do just that--ignore distractions and keep focused on his job.
STRATEGIES TO AVOID THE "DIVE-BOMBER"
- Avoid eye contact; keep attention on your puppy and just keep walking.
- If you are stationary, step in between your puppy and the stranger to intercept the most aggravating "bomb."
- Ask the "bomber" to help you "train" your puppy with a MEET & GREET. (This means you are also training the "bomber!")
A FEW SIMPLE RULES
- It is your responsibility to know what your puppy is doing at all times.
- Your puppy must have "4-on-the-floor" before getting attention.
- Your puppy must not "mouth" (read: "nip") the hand that pets.
- It is perfectly okay to say, "No, my puppy is working right now. Can you see how excited he is getting? He has to learn to stay calm."
TEACHING A CALM MEET & GREET
Ideally, use a partner for this exercise. If you don't have anyone available to help you, tie your puppy's leash to a secure object and do the approach yourself. The idea is to remove what your puppy wants until he is sitting calmly.
- Put your puppy in a sit at your left side. Your puppy should be on leash.
- Have your helper approach without looking at your puppy and without saying anything.
- If your puppy gets up to reach for your helper, don't reprimand your puppy; simply put your puppy back into a sit. Your helper should turn and walk away.
- If your puppy stays seated, your helper should try to pet your puppy.
- Your helper should take his or her hand away if your puppy tries to mouth the hand, or if your puppy gets up. Again, don't say a word; just put your puppy back into a sit. (Sometimes petting your puppy's chest instead of the top of his head will keep the mouth away.)
- If your puppy sits calmly without mouthing, up the ante. Have your helper approach at a quicker pace, or add something like the "dive-bomber" would say: "What a sweet puppy!"
- Increase the enticement of the approach as your puppy begins to exhibit self-control. Perhaps use a child and work up to the child running over to your puppy. Or work with another puppy-raiser with their puppy as a distraction.
If you can work this exercise in a controlled setting, it will make things easier when you expect your puppy to have self-control in the uncontrolled environment of the general public.
Remember: enforce the few simple "rules" as stated above!
Take advantage of the general public when you can. The next time someone asks you, "Can I pet your puppy?" say, "Well, you can help me train him! Let me tell you what to do." Explain the proper way to MEET & GREET and concentrate on keeping your puppy in a calm sit.
Your puppy may figure things out way before the "dive-bombers" of the world ever will!