Country – to see how he copes with country walks, livestock, lack of footpaths.
Suburban – to see how he copes with his straight line work, kerb work, dog and cat distraction
Urban - to get him used to busy environments, traffic, public transport, increased noise levels. Things that can upset a dog in training vary but they include statues, balloons, shadows, masks, strange noises, steps or platforms with a glass drop off or where you can see through the stairs.
Many of our families have young children. I work with buggies and shopping trolleys so that the dogs can learn to work close to these without becoming over aware or scared. And to learn how to avoid getting clipped by the wheels.
At this stage in Hector’s training I do not use food rewards as he does not need them, with the exception on free run. I use it intermittently on free run to reward a good recall response. However it is important to know that he will refuse food until given permission to take it and that when he does take it, he does so very gently. I will be working on other food refusal work to see if he tries to take any food from food stalls or off the ground. The dogs are just at buggy level so I have to watch that he does not try to take a lick of a child’s dripping ice cream as they go by or swipe a biscuit from their hand. Dogs are opportunists so they will chance it if they think they will get away with it.
children’s rides. These can be a little bit scary for dogs especially if they go off intermittently when we are walking by. The dogs have to be very well behaved indoors and need to learn how to behave when approached by the public. I have a sign on the dog’s jacket stating, please ask to pet me.
Some of the families will encourage social interaction for their child so
the dog needs to be well behaved.
Some of the children with Autism particularly those with hearing sensitivity will not want to stop and talk about the dog (or allow their parent to talk about the dog) so it is important to know how to get the dog to ignore public attention. Other areas I work on in the shopping centre are: trolley work, lifts, stairs, food refusal, fitting into a changing cubicle or toilet and hand dryers.
I do a lot of work getting the dogs used to people stepping over them so that they do not pop up every time somebody moves. They also need to be good around toddlers who will often unintentionally prod or poke them or pull their hair/tail.
Playgrounds. I do a lot of work in playgrounds getting the dogs used to being obedient in highly intense areas. There can be a lot of high pitch laughing, crying, screeching which can be exciting for the dogs. I teach the dogs how to behave when approached by children and I use benching as a tool to help manage the dog and the child at the same time. This is a form of tethering where the dog is tied to a secure area such as a park railing or bench. I control the dog then using my voice and body language. This can be used in other areas such as by the Lough when feeding the birds. The Lough is particularly good area to train for bird and dog distraction. The birds are very protective of their young and can get quite nasty if you go too close so the dogs have to know how to cope with this and will do so by getting security from the handler.