Since I am working towards becoming a Service Dog, I have already started learning how to behave in public. It's important for Service Dogs in training to start venturing out in public at a young age to get used to all the people, noises and different situations that arise. That way, when I'm an adult, I'll be prepared and going out in public will be no big deal and I can stay focused on helping my person.
What should you do if you see me or my service dog friends out in public?
If you'd like to pet me, just ask my trainer first! It's important for me to learn how to greet people in public and then go back to focusing on my person, so my trainer is usually happy to use the experience as part of my training. However, it is important that you greet me calmly (it makes it difficult for my trainer to get my attention back on them if you get all ramped up as it makes me really excited) and always listen to and respect what my trainer says or does (for example, if I get too excited and try to jump on you, I won't be able to greet you anymore as I need to learn that that behavior isn't ok). There may also be times when my trainer is working with me on specific skills and it's just not a good time for us to meet, so please be respectful of those situations too and politely walk away.
Please keep in mind that I'm still a puppy and in the learning process, so I might not always be on my best behavior. Sometimes I might get frustrated about having to ‘hang out' while my trainer is doing something like enjoying a meal, so I might bark to try to get her attention. This can become disruptive to you (which my trainer apologizes for), but if I'm going to become a Service Dog to someone in the future, I need to learn to ‘hang out' and the best way to do that is with practice and being ignored if I do bark.
I have to tell you, my absolute favorite part about going out in public is seeing all the smiles! When I'm trotting through the grocery store, Target or anywhere and I see people go from drab to big smiles because they saw me, it makes my day – it makes me proud to be training to be a Service Dog!
Last night I was practicing ‘hanging out' at Hilldale Mall and Jesi tells me I did a really good job! I got to meet a lot of new people, slobbered all over a little girl who giggled so much she could barely contain herself, and I even got to meet Santa Claus! Check out the pictures from my adventure (my friend Teal and her trainer, Sandy, got their picture taken with Santa too) - they were added to the slide show HERE!
I hope to see you around Madison soon!