ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

A Trip to Wal-Mart

Hi All!

This morning hubby Tim had to go in for a follow-up fasting blood test, so while he was getting poked by the vampires, I took 7 month-old Cappy the service Papillon in training, on a nice river walk and into Wal-Mart for a short field trip.

It has been a while since I've done much with Cappy: life has had far too many time demands on me, and I was harboring tons of guilt that I was letting this little boy down. I couldn't imagine how he would be in the store, and since he's been home-bound so much lately, I thought I may be setting him up for failure.

I decided to just take him IN the door, around the registers, and out the other door, if he had no attention span, was too distracted. But, instead, we got inside the door and the greeter was someone we knew, who also knows service dog etiquette well. She spoke to me, not my dog, and of course, didn't make any noises or try to distract him. Cappy recognizes her, wiggles his tail and sashays in place next to my chair, picking up his feet like a dressage horse.

He's clearly not ready for stationary exercise practice at this moment, so I ask for only a quick sit, then click and treat him and release him to go "make friends" with the nice greeter. He does, and licks all her fingers. The greeter asks me specific questions about his progress, and I answer them, while glancing down at Cappy, who is now back at my side in a heel position.

Shoppers pass by and he ignores them, intent on making ME click and treat him for offering some behavior. I ignore Cappy a bit too long, more than his attention span can handle at this point in time, and out of my peripheral vision, I see him flop into a down. Then jump up into a sit. Then wave his paw. Then down again. Then try to pick up a piece of paper on the floor, balance on two legs and get me to take it. Then he grabs the loose leash, tries to hand me the slack. When this nets NO attention, he sits back on his haunches, lets out a morning Rooser wake-up call----Cappa Roodle-Roooodle-Roooooooooooooo!

Right there in the store, with a zillion people buzzing around, my boy does his chicken imitation. I swear, he's been reading Christy's posts. Thank GOODNESS he is in full service dress, wearing a visible "In TRAINING" sign. We had been working on putting that cute Banty Roooooster Roo-roo on cue, so Cap figures this is one of the behaviors that might net him a click and a treat.

I immediately excuse myself from the greeter, and take Cappy through the store. He wants to move, has already run a mile, walked a second mile on the riverwalk, so I think he'll do okay. We move through the store and I randomly reinforce Cappy with a click and treat for walking nicely at my side, amidst all those distractions, on a loose leash.

I drop the leash and Cappy picks it up, hands it to me. I drop a pen, and he repeats his retrieval. Yesss! He hasn't forgotton, after all! Even with no practice, he remembers what to do. It's a lot easier for him to remember, to concentrate when he knows my bait bag holds nuked garlic chicken.

I walk Cappy through the toy department, and he passes by a gaggle of kids, and flips them a tail wag, but keeps his attention on me. CLICK and TREAT, Cappy!

I'm delighted that this little boy has such confidence in public. He is little. He'll not go nearly as big as my other two, and may top out at about 10 inches. A bit on the tiny side for working on the ground in crowds, but this boy has no fears, and has an incredibly well-developed skill of observing big FEET. He knows how to dodge 'em, and no longer goes for the shoe laces.

Cappy let a toddler stick her fingers in his mouth, and nibbled and licked gently. I was instantly grateful for having worked at developing bite inhibition in this pup, (Thank you Jean Donaldson!) as it's sometimes impossible to be quicker than children when they are intent on putting fingers in puppies' mouths. In public, it's something we can't always stop quickly enough. So the dog must be prepared for every eventuality.

The toddler then grabbed his ear fringes, but did not pull, just sort of held on to them. Cappy didn't mind at all, and licked her hand when she was done. Oh, thank you early learning and manipulation! All that daily handling, manipulating of body parts paid off. Cappy knows human hands never, never deliver pain, never cause fear, but are always "good things". At 8 months, this is now a "default" behavior, and he has no hesitation about hands coming toward him from any direction, or hands pulling gently on his ears, his fringes, poking at his mouth, lifting his lip up. He just accepts this as normal now. Yesss!

The big kids with the mom and toddler want to see him "do a trick", so I drop the leash and cue Cappy to pick it up. He does, beautifully. Then I drop a plastic covered group of three ink pens. Again, he retrieves them, stands on his hind legs and gives them to me. Then I put him in a down, a sit, and cue him to wave. I let the big kids cue him to shake hands, then give them all little treats to give Cappy.

Cappy is in ecstasy. Garlic chicken, kids, attention, games he knows how to play--life is good for a service puppy in training!

We move through the store, practicing WAIT at every display counter, practice "leave it" through the lunch bar, and "OUT!" when I didn't catch him quick enough to cue "leave it" to a french fry on the floor. He immediately spit the french fry out, but looked up at me with starving waif eyes. Hey, spitting the object out on cue is all I can ask for at this point, and more than I ever could get with Peek at this age.

I'm stoked. I'm thrilled. This puppy is just wonderful beyond words, especially for having been cooped up so much the last month. We head out the door, and going to the van come across a lizard scurrying across the hot asphalt. Cappy wants to chase badly, but I cue him to "leave it", in a whisper--in a WHISPER--, and he looks up to me for attention. Of course I click and treat. That was a BIG distraction for a puppy to bypass and nets him a jackpot and chance to offer several behaviors I can also click and treat him for. He has long forgotten the lizard, and is intent on keeping me clicking as long as possible.

At home, however, he is not quite the little gentleman he is out in public. He's on leash, watching me closely for the next cue in public, but at home, he's Mr. Wild Man, and intent on satiating his curiousity.

I have already taught him how to open and shut doors. MISTAKE. I will never again teach a puppy to do this before they have matured a bit more. He now knows how to open the door, pull out the garbage, strew it on the floor and pick through for goodies. He knows how to open the hamper, pull out the best used underwear and snack on the crotches. He even knows that after he's finished the crotches, he can drag my pantyhose out to the living room and get the other dogs to play a three round game of tug. Obviously, management is in order here!

Yes, I have removed all the dirty clothing from his access, have put the garbage on the counter, have put every waste can up on tables. He will outgrow this soon enough, just as Peek and Dandy did. Cappy discovers, during dinner, that I have moved all his treasured waste receptables, when he quietly sneaks into the kitchen and opens the cabinet door. Finding nothing, and smelling the bag on top of the counter, he lets out a Cockaroodle-ROOOOOO that would wake the dead.

I really had to put a "frustration" behavior on cue, didn't I, and reinforce it well, so he couldn't forget it? Color me airhead.

But the ever-creative Cappy has "stash" in places I have not even discovered. Under the bed, he has Mt. Trashmore. All the pieces of panty crotches, the pockets that once held treats and used to be attached to shirts, pieces of kleenex, feathers--you name it. One by one he drags them out, shreds them up and deposits them in piles on the living room floor. I know I'm going to have to clean out under the bed, like it or not.

Cappy began nibbling on phone wires and the edges of the carpet during his cabin fever time. Of course I crate or ex-pen him whenever I'm not there for long periods, but because he was getting so reliable, I let him run free most of the day when I am there to somewhat supervise. But the phone wire and carpet nibbling is not good, and I don't use physical punishment on my dogs. So I took liquid soap and rubbed it on all the phone wires, the lamp wires, the edges of the carpet. It WORKED! He gave up those past times.

I put a couple of mini-carrots on the floor in the "yes" zone. He loves his veggies! But he still wants his attention. Since the cupboard no longer holds the trash bag, he tries to entice my attention by opening and closing the door rapidly, closing it with a loud THWACK! Then he runs in to where I am, spins in a circle, sits up, flops down, roo-roos. Hahhh! Puppies are so doggone creative, aren't they? These little things don't bother me, because every dog I've had has eventually outgrown this, and I know Cappy will too.

Happy Clicking, all!

Debi Davis
Tucson, AZ
copyright 1999 Debi Davis


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