This might sound weird, but I have taken Dom the German shepherd puppy to the farm store four out of the four days he has been here.
For one thing, the weather has been your typical lower Michigan crap; wet and windy and cold. It’s too unpleasant to be outside. I am not blessed with a big fancy training center close by. But sometimes the farm store is even better than a training center, because of the comings and goings of strangers, and all the smells and doin’s.
And of course there are the shopping carts.
Dom is afraid of vehicles. This includes fear of riding in them, and fear of having them drive by. What is a shopping cart but a smaller vehicle? So on the first day I hooked him to a shopping cart, he wondered what the heck was happening. Luckily I had my trusty border collie to help him through it.
The deal with the shopping cart is that it is big and awkward. It bangs and crashes. It’s cold metal. And it has those scary rolly things called wheels.
This all may sound like it’s no big deal. But to a fearful dog like Dom it is a big venture. It’s very stressful, especially today because we went into a whole new store. Once when I asked Til to lie down for a photo, Dom lay right on top of him. In the photo this looks cute, but it happened because was scared and looking to the older dog for reassurance.
The more we get out on these excursions the more they will become routine and the less scary they will be.
The advantages of tying your dog to a shopping cart and walking him around cannot be overestimated. It demands that the puppy focus, so takes a lot of his attention away from other stuff that is going on. It teaches him not to forge ahead on the leash, because the cart can make a sudden left turn and bump him. It teaches him body awareness, because he may have to back out of a tight space or get his feet out from under the wheels.
There is the added bonus that his walking on a loose leash, sans cart, will only be the better for it.
Dom has opted to sit down every time the cart stops moving. If he pulls too hard on the leash, we stop moving. He sits, and we can go again. This gives him a little sense of control in the whole production.
One of the best things about the shopping excursion, for a timid pup, is that the proceedings are not all about him. It’s not like a class where he is the center of attention and it’s, “do this, don’t do that”. He is incidental. He is along for the ride, and it’s up to him to fit in. We have other stuff going on here. We are shopping, and he gets to be part of it. There are cookies and maybe even a new toy. There are people delighted to see him and give him a treat.
There are other people that for whatever reason, are scary to him. So he thinks he should bark at those folks. This is when it’s time to remind him to keep his mind on the job.
Eventually, the farm store — and other outings by default — will change from a stressful ordeal to an event that is happy and interesting.
Check out my book: 25 Ways To Raise A Great Puppy