I remember being a fan of the game show Let’s Make a Deal. This was the show where host Monty Hall offered contestants plucked from the audience — the most audacious ones prepared with outlandish attention-seeking costumes at that — choices between winning stuff in boxes or behind curtains. The hope was winning grand prizes without being made to feel too foolish. Contestants knew that their choice could be a boom or bust option. At the end of each show he had a feature where he asked people in the audience if they had certain quirky things in their pockets or purses. If they did, they’d get some sort of cash prize. There were even a few times the show was produced in Cleveland and the appeal would go out on local TV to come to a taping at The Terminal Tower. I always wanted to go but alas, I never made it. The appeal of that show is part of the fabric of my childhood.
In the world of socializing a young dog for potential service dog function, it is very important to go on outings prepared — I suggest a proverbial “diaper bag” of possible needs — poop bags, treats, stuffed kongs, clicker, bully sticks, paper towels, collapsible water bowl, water, a soft blanket or mat, etc. — that can be modified depending on the length and location of the outing. And not worry about how it looks to be schlepping it with you! It is also important to make choices at the rate the young dog can handle it — going past the proverbial curtain or behind the box — to see if it’s going to be successful or perhaps a mini disaster. Which just adds another layer of training/socializing — an ongoing and perpetual task during the Service Dog In Training phase. On a recent public access socialization outing with Ella, one of my current service pups in training — we took a field trip to the Apple Store. I had her take a potty break before we entered (teaching a “go pee” cue is a great way to empty bladders before going on trips or into buildings!) and had bully sticks and treats on hand. She was happy to trot right on in and head on over to the sales area to await service. She managed to remain calm for some petting from some of the staff members and a customer or two and she obeyed requests to sit/down/stay while I chatted. She did a great job and took comfort on the cool floor of the store. After a bit, we had to move over to a different part of the store. Ella stood up, stretched, and promptly peed — just a little puddle – on the non absorbent surface.
For many this would be a mortifying experience but in the training process, pee happens. This 4 1/2 month old pup is smart, enthusiastic, responsive, friendly, brave and adorable. But she is young and innocent and devoid of really strong bladder control. I was going to fish in my bag for a paper towel to dry it off when I saw a Apple Employee heading over with a spray bottle and paper towel roll. Without a blink of the eye, I was told it was no problem and it was cleaned up while I continued business. Now that’s progress in the world’s acceptance of dog’s working in public and needing to learn how to be in public first! Can’t wait to return to the Genius Bar with Ella for another outing to see if we can make it through “pee free”. Maybe I’ll win a prize behind the box! Or least learn how to operate OS X 10.8.5!