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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tuesday's Training TIP: PUBLIC MEET & GREET

FLD Gus needed a walk; his morning energy had nowhere to go.  

In spite of snow shards slapping our faces, I walked him up to the corner pharmacy.  I had to pick up a prescription anyway.  (Did you know they give tetanus shots every 5 years now?!  A nasty cut on my knuckle got infected and now it's antibiotics time.  Rats.)

I'm not sure that Gus's future handler would want to brave the out-of-doors and slippery sidewalks on such a wintry day, but it is important to expose this Future Leader Dog to every kind of weather, just in case.

Nippy wind and snow-dust didn't deter FLD Gus, but he forced me to walk backwards a bit as we approached the entrance to Walgreen's.  A little too eager!  Once inside, Gus morphed into a patient puppy, a fine ambassador for Leader Dogs for the Blind.

We practiced our RIGHT and LEFT turns up and down the aisles, taking the long way to the rear of the store.  Gus.  SIT, I commanded when we finally arrived at the pharmacy counter.  Gus sat, but soon slid into a DOWN.  I faked a step forward to get him up; then helped him back into his SIT.

On our way out, I paused at a display of $10 pet beds.  We finally disposed of Gypsy's old bed, tired of pulling puffs of stuffing from Gus's mouth.  A woman with an armload of items approached and asked, "We can't pet them, can we?"

Thanks for asking, I said.  I decided to test Gus.  Why don't you help me train him?  Let me get him into a SIT and then you can pet him.  If he gets up, or tries to put his mouth on your hand, just take your hand away and step back.  He needs to learn how to sit nicely when people come up to us.

Gus.  SIT.  FLD Gus looked up at me and immediately sat.  The woman juggled her purchases and stepped forward with one arm stretched toward Gus.  He raised his nose in anticipation, but did not get up.  After a few attempts at licking her (she removed her hand each time), he settled in for a nice round of petting.  Good boy, Gus!

The woman and I had the usual talk about "how hard it must be to give them up," and "such a good thing for you to do," and "he is SO precious!"  Then it was time to brave the winter storm and walk home.

Gus.  HEEL.

If Gus seemed a bit reluctant to leave the warm store and go back out into the weather, once he "parked" and we were on our way, he heeled comfortably at my side.


FLD Gus didn't start out behaving this well for a "public" MEET & GREET.  We started out practicing this at home with family and friends, and in puppy-class at Leader Dogs for the Blind.  (Read my post from November 9, 2010 to learn how to introduce a proper Meet & Greet to your puppy.)

Once FLD Gus seemed to get the idea, it has been fun to solicit strangers (who ask to pet him) for their help.  Now I am proud when Gus sits so nice!

SUGGESTIONS FOR WORKING A PUBLIC MEET & GREET
  • If you've worked on MEET & GREET in a controlled setting first, try asking someone in public to help you "train" your puppy.  They are typically eager to help, and it becomes another opportunity to educate the public.
  • Explain what you are going to do and how they can help.
  • Get your puppy into a SIT, and then ask the person to approach.
  • Don't say anything to your puppy if he or she gets up.  Ask the person to step back and calmly put your puppy back into a SIT.
  • Repeat.
  • If your puppy gets too excited and just won't hold the SIT, tell the person that your puppy isn't able to stay calm today.  Don't be afraid to ask them to refrain from petting your puppy.  Because you've explained everything, they will readily agree that it isn't a good idea!
  • Try to get your puppy into a SIT with the person a few steps back.
  • Thank the stranger for helping you.  This is a good opportunity to have your puppy hold the SIT for a few moments, with the distraction moved away.  Even though it may seem that your puppy did not succeed, remember that your puppy is still LEARNING.  He or she will do better the next time!


(Oops!  I missed posting this yesterday, on TUESDAY!  Well, I hope that it is better to post  this TIP a day late than never.  Now, out to have some fun in the snow...yesterday's storm dropped a lot more than the four inches the weather reporters predicted!)
 

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