Pets in Public Places
Jewel is frustrated
in her attempts to find opportunities for stepped-up socialization,
since dogs are not allowed in places off-limit to pets, no matter how
well trained they may be. She notes that service dogs are the only ones
allowed access to non dog places, and asks for ideas on how she can
get her dog Kong adequately bombproofed without being allowed to take
her dog on buses, etc.
Jewel, I understand
your frustration, and I too wish things were different in the US. I
don't think I would hope for pet access, as is so widespread in Europe,
because sadly, our American dogs are not nearly as well-socialized on
the whole, and if we had instant access for pets, those of us using
assistance dogs would have to be even more hyper-vigilant for poorly
trained, under-socialized dogs who put our working dogs at risk.
Of course, this
makes it so frustrating for conscientious, dedicated dog handlers such
as yourself, and dogs who DO possess good social skills and would not
be problematic. So the great dog owners who have spent time working
with their dogs, socializing them, preparing them to exist in stimulus-rich
environments, are punished as a default. It's unfair, but considering
the plethora of American pets who lack social skills, it would seriously
endanger the lives and livelihoods of those using service dogs if all
pets were to be given public access rights. If only all dog owners were
thing to note here in regards to service dogs in training: the right
to bring a dog-in-training into places that are not normally open to
pets is granted by individual states. There is no federal law regarding
dogs still in-training. So I may be an independent service dog trainer
and my state may allow me to bring dogs into non-pet allowed places,
but if I cross the next state's borders, I may not be allowed any more
rights than the pet owner.
The dog has
no rights, period. Access is granted only to people with disabilities
to be accompanied by their trained service animals---the animals have
no rights. They are considered no more than "durable medical equipment,"
the same as a wheelchair, cane or leg braces might be classified.
Also, many states
have statutes that require people training service dogs to belong to
a group or organization, and grant no access to individual trainers.
So, there are
times even those of us who do have some access allowances, still end
up having the same problems Jewel has encountered. And here 20 Hot Tips
on how to get the job done without breaking laws.
- If we can't
get ON a bus, we can still go to the bus station, we can practice
cueing our dogs and getting crisp responses next to buses backfiring,
next to buses pulling in and pulling out, squealing breaks, next to
wheelchair lifts being activated.
- To desensitize
a dog to wheelchair lifts, call a friend with a disability who uses
a lift-equipped van and practice in that vehicle. No friend with such
a van? Call your local Independent Living center and ask if you can
post on their bulletin board for a person with a lift-van to assist
you in your training task.
- Buses smell
and sound different from cars. To help your dog get used to the diesel
smell and sound, go to a truck stop and swill coffee with a few truckers,
and ask for a trucker to allow you to enter and exit his cab with
your dog, while he adjusts the air brakes, etc. Buy the trucker lunch
and you may even get a ride around the truckstop grounds in the rig
with your dog.
- Since indoor
malls are out of the question, EXCEPT during times when a local photo
merchant may be offering dog pictures (find out when your local mall
shops offer this so you can use it for training opportunities!), do
your work in the periphery of the mall. There is SO MUCH you can do
outside, by the seating areas, the parking lot with the delivery trucks,
the cars blasting rap music, the snow scrapers, road cleaners. Look
for loading docks to department stores, and hunker around capturing
training opportunities when trucks are unloading merchandise.
- Ask Mall
guards to stop and talk with you, pet your dog, helping your dog get
used to uniformed guards. In some states, guards are on bicycles and
this is an other great socialization opportunity.
- Stop at the
outdoor seating and work on social skills while meeting people of
both sexes, all ages, all nationalities. Great opportunities for distraction
training, as well!
- Go to police
stations, fire stations, and get your dog used to more people in uniforms.
If you hit a slow time at a fire station, you may get lucky and get
a tour through with your dog, and maybe even someone to start up a
truck or turn on a siren or lights.
- Walk down
city sidewalks with your dog, getting the dog used to traffic sounds,
thousands of feet surging by, and stop in any park area where you
might see kids on skateboards or roller-blades.
- Some local
stores DO allow access to pets, such as Petco, PetSmart and other
pet supply stores. But, you may also well find willing small business
owners who will be delighted to help you by giving you access into
non-food places, such as hardware stores, plumbing supplies, lumber
yards, etc. Smaller businesses are a much safer bet, and larger stores
such as Home Depot have strict "no pet" policies. Not so
the mom and pop hardware, the local electrical supply, the local real-estate
office, etc. Call ahead and ask!
- Grocery stores
can be another excellent place to socialize outside: again, provides
ample opportunity for distractions, and often there are food distractions
added, plus more carts and activity. You'll also have grocery store
folks pushing lines of carts around, which is noisy and very distracting.
Lots of kids, food smells, opportunities to reinforce wanted responses
in your dog.
sites also can offer a plethora of great opportunities to desensitize
to large equipment, new sounds an sights, and unexpected overhead
movement and sounds. Construction workers in helmets are great to
expose the dog to.
- Parks where
dogs are allowed: Look for little league games, ball games of all
kinds to help work through distractons and socialize dog with children.
- Country roads:
take long walks to reinforce non-reactivity to wild critters, and
focus on the handler.
- Most county
fairs I have attended allow pets! Take these opportunities to go daily
to one of the richest environments for distractions known to humankind.
There are the midway lights, sounds, movement of the rides, squealing
of the kids. There are animal barns with horses, cows, rabbits, goats,
fowl, etc. There are judging rings and activities in bleachers, and
moving under bleachers is another great tip: it can be daunting to
a dog to hear all the thundering feet overhead.
- Airport runway
approach areas: Often, at major airports, residential areas are useful
to desensitizing to low-flying jets. If you have such an area near
you, use it to get your dog used to the thunder and hiss of the big
- Garbage Dumps.
Yes, garbage dumps. There is usually a nice office, and lots of HUGE
trucks going in and out all the time. The smells can be extremely
distracting for dogs (ok, and for humans!), but this is another excellent
training area often overlooked.
of all kinds quite often allow pets. Take advantage of them! Work
the periphery until your dog gets used to the hubub. If you can find
special events, such as hot-air balloon competitions, all the better.
Or loud music of any kind. *TIP: if the music is loud for you, think
about your dog's ears which are even more sensitive. Bring earplugs
for you AND the dog!
markets: In many towns and cities, weekend mornings offer a terrific
opportunity to walk past vendor's tables. Some are posted "no
pets," but others are not. Find out if you have one near you
that allows people to bring pets.
Park yourself and your dog outside a schoolyard during recess, to
expose the dog to the squeak of swings, the squeal of children, running,
jumping, hollering of kids at play.
- Find small
country bridges over roads that make noises as cars roll over them,
or even noisy railroad tracks. Railroad yards are also wonderful places,
and again, can be very pet friendly. If nothing available, find the
timetable for freight and passenger trains and station yourself by
a track when you know trains will be going by. Again, earplugs may
be in order. <G>
Hope some of
copyright 2001 Debi Davis
Training Articles Contents || Site
Copyright of all
posts is the property of the original author. Please obtain permission
from the original author before copying, quoting, or forwarding.
List and Site
Owner: Melissa Alexander, mca @ clickersolutions.com