No, not shopping for a new dog, shopping with your dog.
The inspiration for this blog post was a recent visit to Staples with Dustin and Charlie (below). I just needed to grab a couple of things so we ran into the store quickly. First, we headed to the printer ink. The guy helped me find what I needed and then was telling me how much he loves dogs. The dogs were sitting at my side and the store associate politely asked if he could greet the boys. I said sure, and then told them to "go say hi".
Go say hi means that if they would like they can go greet the person. They do not have to if they don't want to. In this case, both boys went over and gently said hi. Dustin moved away first, and then Charlie. That's when I said thank you to the employee and “let's go” to Dustin and Charlie. As we walked away the guy thanked me for letting them say hi and complemented their good behavior.
Printer ink completed, we next headed to get some pens and a new notebook. As I searched the shelves Dustin and Charlie sat and stayed. That’s when the woman stocking a nearby shelf said they were “super cute, and such good listeners.” I thanked her and we headed to the checkout.
At the checkout, the boys waited patiently in line right next to me, and the sat out of the way as I completed the transaction. The cashier then echoed the sentiments of her coworkers complimenting them on their good behavior. I thanked her and as I said “let’s go” we headed out to finish our walk.
While I very much appreciated the compliments of the store employees, I was SHOCKED! I thought the visit over and the boys did not do any sort of crazy advanced obedience. They basically did loose leash walking with some sits and stays. The shopping trip made me think that a lot of dogs might not be behaving in very desirable ways inside stores.
I realized how lucky I am that I can do this. I can go into a store and be confident that Dustin and Charlie can happily go into a crowded area, walk down narrow isles, ignore all products on the shelf, not trip anyone with their leash, walk when I walk, and stop and be stationary when I stop, and stay in a stay when I am otherwise occupied looking at shelves, and talking to store associates. On top of that, they were ok with a few strangers looking, talking to, and possibly touching them. Not an easy task at all. And one I was taking for granted.
Taking your dog shopping is especially beneficial when you are under a time crunch, and a can also be a great way to manage the amount of time a dog with separation anxiety spends alone. But it should not replace daily walks and enrichment.
Before taking your dog to the store there are a few things to consider before you even leave your house.
Is the store dog friendly? If not, don’t bring your dog.
Is your dog potty trained? If you are not 99.99999% sure your dog will not have an accident your dog is not ready to accompany you into stores yet.
Will your dog be ok having unknown dogs, people, and kids near them in a tight aisle at the store. If not, do not bring your dog shopping.
If the answer to even one of these is no, then your dog is not ready to go into stores.
If you have determined that your dog is an appropriate candidate for heading to the store with you there 3 important behaviors for your dog to be able to perform. I recommend bringing treats in a treat pouch the first couple dozen times your dog goes shopping with you.
1. Loose leash walking
Your dog should be able to walk through the store right next to you, without tripping anyone, without approaching any dogs or people unless cued, and without knocking anything off the shelves.
If your dog does not know how to walk on a loose leash, here are two exercises to get started.
Start with Captured Attention Out on walks
Bring treats on every walk and reward your dog every time he looks at you. Treats should be high value, boiled chicken, hotdogs, and cheese are usually a hit. This step is pretty straight forward. Every time your dog looks at you, give him a treat. This teaches him to pay attention to you while outside. He cannot pull if he is looking at you.
Bring your dog’s most favorite treats on every walk and your clicker. Things like boiled chicken and cut up hot dogs usually work great. Make sure the pieces are small- about the size of a pea.
Bring your dog to a quiet area and stand still. Wait patiently for your dog to turn his head towards you or look at you. The moment that he does, click, and reward immediately. Repeat until your dog is looking at you pretty constantly.
Now start moving, as you walk your dog click any time he turns his head in your direction or looks at you.
You will know your dog understands this when he is looking at you every couple steps- this is good! This is what you want!
Start on a leash inside
Any skill that you want your dog to do outside, you should also practice inside. Grab some treats, leash up your pup, and go for a nice walk inside. Reward your dog for looking at you and when your dog pulls stop moving. Your dog will likely have better LLW inside than outside, so make sure you practice, practice, practice.
Get your clicker and tasty, small, treats ready.
Lure your dog to your side, so he is facing the same direction as you. Click and treat. (Your shoulders and his shoulders should be pointing in the same direction)
Feed your dog with your hand next to your leg, on the side that he is on (if he is on your left side, feed with your left hand, if he is on your right side, feed with your right hand), with your palm facing your dog’s nose. This is important. If your hand is facing another direction your dog will move out of position to take the treat.
Your dog is likely to take one treat, and then move away. Repeat step “B” as many times as necessary until your dog understands that standing next to you will get him heavily rewarded.
Once your dog is standing next to you with duration, lure him forward as you take one step. Click and treat for taking one step with you.
Repeat taking one step at a time, while you lure your dog to walk with you, clicking and treating your dog for every step.
You can find a complete blog post about loose leash walking here.
2. Sit and Stay
Your dog should be able to sit anywhere, anytime. When you are looking for products, when you are in line, and when you are paying. They should be able to stay sitting as you move around looking for what you’re trying to purchase, while kids are jumping around in line, and while your back is turned as you speak with the cashier.
To the right, you can view an unedited video of Frank learning to sit and stay while his owner checks out at the farmers market.
If your dog struggles with sit and stay this is one method you can use to teach them.
Step 1: Get the sit
Say your dog’s name.
Put your food (lure) to your dog's nose. Without letting them get it.
Move the lure back over your dog’s head, between ears.
Mark with a “yes” or a click and feed them the lure.
Step 2: Cue the Sit
1. Say your dog’s name.
2. Say “sit” once and clearly. Do not repeat.
3. Lure the sit.
4. Dog sits.
5. Mark with click or “yes” and feed.
Step 3: Add Duration
Say your dog’s name.
Say “sit” once and clearly. Do not repeat.
Lure your dog into the sit the same way as step one with the treat up above your dog’s head.
Mark the sit and feed one treat.
Quickly give a second treat.
Begin to change the duration of the sit. For example, your dog gets a treat after one second, then three seconds, then one second, then five seconds.
Release your dog with a very clear “ok.” He should not get up unless you say “ok”. Praise such as “good” boy does not indicate that the exercise is over.
Step 4: Fade the lure
Food will now be used as a reward rather than a lure. Be sure not to progress to this step until your dog has practiced step 3 a few hundred times.
No visible food.
Say your dog's name.
Say sit once and clearly. Do not repeat.
Wait for sit to happen.
Mark and feed.
Continue to feed him while he sits. Remember to vary the time between treats.
Say “ok” and release your dog.
Step 5: Generalize to new Locations
Now that your dog can confidently and easily perform sit inside you can begin to start practicing in new locations.