06 June 2008

More Public Access Practice

Practicing public access is essential for Molly's training as a service dog. We're still waiting on her vest but it should be in the mail (international mail does take time and the fact that we had a national holiday yesterday doesn't help).

So since we're vestless, we're still restricted to outside areas and pet stores. The other day we went to a pet store again and Molly showed real progress. There weren't many people in the shop. She was still excited about the shopkeeper and wanted to jump up, but responded well to sit commands so she was on all fours instead. It's a great way to keep her from jumping--if we get her down in a sit, we can abort the jump and give a positive task to praise her for instead of worrying about restraining her all the time like so many people do. Also jumping is self-reinforcing, so it helps to offer a behavior with even more reinforcement. It is additionally a step closer to the end SD behavior we want--a dog in control of itself and focused on the handler.

Once she'd been greeted, she was able to settle down and walk with me on a loose leash. She sniffed things a little but discretely and in a way that didn't disturb the merchandise. She wasn't trying to eat the treats and bones in buckets on the floor, so I'm really happy about that--I didn't even need leave its.

With our upcoming US trip and my worries about the different terrain, we wanted to try some dog boots on her. She took it totally calmly. DH did the fitting because I couldn't get down very well. But she stood still and patiently while he put boots on her front feet and adjusted them. Then she walked around, awkwardly, but without signs of distress and still with her brain and interest in other things. They actually seemed okay, but we want to look another place yet.

After we got those off and were standing and talking, Molly just relaxed and stood next to me. I hadn't given her something to do--she just settled calmly on her own. Some other people came in during that time. She was especially interested in the kid that came in and it didn't help that he kept staring at her, but she stayed in control. She looked at him but stayed with me and didn't pull. A simple no got her to settle back by my side.

The shop keeper offered some taste tests of some treats for her. So it was a perfect time to test how well she could sit and lie down in a strange environment on a single command. She did perfectly, took the treats, and was very nonchalant about the whole thing. She didn't used to be interested in food away from home, so that and her quick response to commands shows how far she has come with public access.

I'm sure she'll just keep getting better with more practice. I'm eager for her vest to arrive so we can try to vary the environment more. It should also help with public reactions to her.

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