Logan is a service dog in training.
Visit his page for more information and to read all of my blog posts about him.
In July, Logan and I spent lots of time reviewing behaviors that need to be really solid in order for him to be able to work in public. This included leash walking, eye contact, stay, sit, down, leave it, switching sides while leash walking, picking up dropped objects, getting out of the way under a bench or table, ignoring people and more.
On an outing to Bed Bath & Beyond
Logan and I spent time practicing these behaviors at my house, in my yard, and at the university building where I have an office. At the university, we practiced at first in the evenings and on the weekends.
I wanted to make sure that Logan was really reliable with all of these behaviors in a low-distraction environment before moving on to more difficult places. At the end of July, we took a few short trips to slightly more distracting places, including visits to the university union and one of the music buildings on campus. (Because it is the end of the summer term, the union is fairly empty right now.)
The past two weeks, Logan has been going lots and lots and lots of different places!
Overall, he has done very well in all of these new environments. During the past two weeks, he’s gotten to visit about 10 different places, including restaurants, several big box stores, and even our local natural grocery store.
Let’s go to lunch
Since the beginning of August, Logan has gone to three different local restaurants, and he’s also gone to eat several times at one of the university dining halls. The university dining hall can be a busy, noisy place during the regular school year. However, last week was the final week of the summer term, and many students had already left campus. The dining hall was largely empty, especially at dinner, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to introduce Logan to the dining hall.
Logan sitting under the table on a recent outing to the UNT dining hall
Restaurants are potentially challenging, since the aisles between the tables can sometimes be fairly narrow. This has been a great opportunity to practice leash walking in tighter spaces and to practice walking closely past people, while still ignoring them. At the dining hall and at a local restaurant called Vert’s Grill, Logan had to stay by my side as we slowly moved down the serving line with people in front of us and behind us. In all of the eateries we’ve visited, Logan has impressed me with his leash walking skills and his ability to stay focused on me.
Narrow booths can be tricky, but Logan did great on our recent trip to Schlotzsky’s.
Once we get our food, Logan gets to practice chilling out under the table (or sometimes beside the table) while I eat my food. He does very well relaxing in a down stay and ignoring the food and other people. I occasionally give him an ear scratch or a belly rub to reinforce him for remaining calm and quiet.
When my mom and I took him to lunch this past week, we had an interesting experience. The table was see-through, so we were able to to watch him closely the whole time! It was a good experience for him, too, and the see-through glass didn’t seem to bother him.
Under the see-through table at The Bowllery
Let’s go shopping
In addition to restaurants, we’ve taken Logan to several different large stores, including Burlington Coat Factory, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and The Cupboard, a local natural grocery store.
When we first go to a new place, I can sometimes tell at the beginning that Logan is not quite ready to focus and work. He’ll be walking with me and will be able to listen to most cues, but he’ll also be doing some looking around, and he may even try to do a bit of sniffing.
Practicing a relaxed stay while we look at birthday cards at The Cupboard.
What I often do is find a quiet corner somewhere in the store where we can hang out for the first five or 10 minutes. This gives Logan a chance to take in the scenery and get used to the sights, sounds, and smells at the new store. While we hang out, we practice lots of eye contact and also some of the other simple behaviors that he really enjoys doing.
Once Logan is totally focused and ready to work, we can then explore the store and do a bit of shopping. My friend Jessica and I took Logan to visit Bed Bath & Beyond and Burlington Coat Factory last week. He did really great on both trips and got to practice many behaviors as we wandered around the store.
Bed Bath & Beyond is probably one of the most challenging places we’ve taken him so far. The store has very narrow aisles, and it was quite busy when we went on Saturday afternoon. We guessed that wandering the whole store might be too big of a challenge for Logan. So, we stuck to one small section of the store. Logan was a bit distracted at first, but, after some practice and repetition, did very well.
Where’s your focus
When Logan and I go on these trips, I still have to spend a lot of my time focusing on him. Depending on the number of people and the number of distractions, I adjust our path, or I adjust what we are doing, so that Logan will be able to be successful.
I plan our trips wisely, to make sure I will be able to focus on him. I took Logan to Target when I needed to pick up one item, and we accompanied a friend to Bed Bath & Beyond when he needed to get a couple of things. At this point, I wouldn’t take Logan some place where I had a lot of shopping to do, as I wouldn’t be able to focus on his training.
However, as we continue to go places, I know that it is going to get easier and easier for Logan to focus when he is out in public. It has been really fun watching all of the progress that he has made over the past two weeks, and I’m sure that he is going to continue to make good progress in the weeks to come.
Sometimes, there’s not enough room under the table.
Instead, Logan has to lie underneath my chair. He’s doing a great job practicing this behavior while he takes a nap during my lunch.