In part one of this series I focused on the fact that some dogs do not enjoy visits to the café and being tied in front of shops, in these cases such activities often only serve to perpetuate poor behaviours and fears. If you would really love to have your dog participate in such excursions with you they need to be adequately prepared.
Teaching your dog to tolerate these activities begins with a strong foundation of socialisation. If your dog is a rescued dog who has not received appropriate socialisation you should begin with basic puppy socialisation training. We should all take a leaf out of the socialisation program used to train seeing eye dogs, they intensively socialise their puppies from eight weeks of age with visits to cafés and shops. These dogs must be comfortable with people/dogs/bikes/prams/trolleys walking by to prepare them for tolerating such environments as they grow. These are dogs like any other dogs, they have simply been intensively socialised and bred for resilience.
None of the following steps can take place unless your dog is comfortable with people and other dogs. If this is not the case remedial confidence building is the very first step in teaching them to tolerate cafe sitting or tie ups.
Sitting idle at a café can be frustrating for many dogs who have never been taught how to ‘settle’. This is a starting point for all dogs and you can practice this on your walks at park benches or around your home with few distractions. Keep your dog on a short lead and lay a towel on the floor and reward your dog when he shows signs of settling down. Settling down behaviour is any behaviour that disengages from you or their environment. If you notice your dog lays down place a few treats in front of his nose with a quiet ‘good boy’. You can then progress to busier areas and remaining sitting for longer and longer periods of time. Continuing to take your dogs‘ mat or towel with you allows him to make the connection more quickly to settling in new areas.
Tie ups begin in much the same fashion, always start with short easy steps first. Tie your dog up when there are no distractions, walk a few steps away and walk straight back to reward. Especially walk back as soon as you see any signs of relaxation, this is the behaviour you definitely want to reward. As time goes on you can walk further and further away and remain away for longer and longer periods.Mix things up too, sometimes make it a shorter or easier departure so things are not always getting harder.
Once your dog is comfortable at this stage you can begin to hide behind a barrier (tree, post, bush, wall) for a few seconds and then progress to longer periods out of sight. For a well adjusted, well socialised dog you should have them comfortable being tied up with you out of sight in a matter of weeks. Then you can progress to more busy areas, although I recommend that you never leave any dog tied up in high traffic areas it is too risky to put your trust in passers by, especially if you have a puppy the risk of theft is a real one.
You can minimise the risk of any poor behaviours being learned by setting your dog up for success in these scenarios. If you are needing to tie your dog up find a space that is free from close pedestrian traffic and away from any loud scary objects such as trolley bays. Perhaps a visit to your local milkbar rather than the busy shopping strip would be better if you are planning to take your dog.
Likewise with café visits, find a café on a wide footpath so your dog has a sense of space around him. Take some treats for your dog with you so you can reward good behaviour. Remember your first few trips to the café will be training trips, mainly focussed on your dog’s behaviour.