Whenever we're on an outing, Ruby is very focused on me and has little interest in other people. She's a happy, good-natured dog who enjoys a wealth of affection from lots of friends, but when we're in a store, restaurant, museum, or the like, I am very diligent about not letting people pet her. The lack of excitement over strangers dissuades her from straying to solicit attention.
Learning not to solicit attention is a very important part of a service puppy's education. Someday, when Ruby is a service dog assisting a person with a disability, it will be critical that she focus intently on her partner. We've been practicing this in public since she was a wee pup and I'm very proud of her for understanding that when she's in a sea of strangers, I'm her one and only.
But while she finds the humans fairly boring, she is crazy about other dogs. She's a naturally confident puppy who just plain likes dogs. She was first-born in a litter of nine and from what I understand, she loved to get everyone going. My Ruby is a pot-stirrer!
So, we're working on learning how to appropriately react to other dogs who cross our path. In other words, To Not Do This:
That sweet little dog actually took Ruby and me both by surprise; I was unaware that this store allowed pet dogs until we turned the corner and Ruby, um, clued me in. I was all la-la-la what a pleasant outing, just strolling about looking at flannel shirts and thermal undies, and then there was lots of lunging and barking and explosions and fireworks and it was all at the other end of my leash. So when you're in the Ladies' Department and fate trades your quiet, well-behaved service puppy for a maniacal wolverine, just look at it as a great training opportunity!
And I have to say, she did very well, considering. It took a little while to get her to focus back on me, but once I had her attention, I put her in a sit and treated her as she sat calmly and let the other dog continue on in peace.
During the rest of the time we were in the store, she saw a few more dogs walking around. She still got very excited, but I was able to recapture her attention a lot more quickly than at first. We'll be working on getting her accustomed to seeing other dogs (especially in unexpected places) and responding in a calm manner.
Great training experience. And even better? This store was so much fun! It really was the coolest place, they had EVERYTHING.
Caps for proud participants in the Witness Protection Program!
Sauces! Lots of Sauces!
Big Huge Red Twisty Thingies!
Camera Equipment! Ruby's very comfy around lenses. In fact, lens cap = chew toy. After the thousands of photos we've taken of her, I figured it was a fair trade.
And even though she can't be petted, she makes friends wherever she goes.