This past weekend was a “holiday” weekend in the US. It was Columbus Day… though to most of the US, it’s just another day off and a reason for shopping the big weekend sales (and really, I can’t say I want to celebrate what Columbus stood for and started BUT, that’s for a political blog, which I try not to be unless it relates to pets). Stores had some pretty deep sales and people flocked to the malls in droves. I just so happen to live 40 minutes away from a massive outdoor outlet mall. On any given day this mall has easily 1000 visitors and probably 5-10 tour buses with at least a few being from Canada. On a holiday/sale weekend… double to triple that amount.
Last time I was there I brought Rio along with me for some socialization and acclimating him to large crowds. This time around I wanted to bring Shayne–something I’d wanted to do for years and easily could have last year, but puppy Rio took precedence. I didn’t completely intend on bringing her on a busy sale weekend, but it happened to work out that my mom asked me to go up with her so I figured now’s as good a time as any.
By the time we got there, about an hour and a half after the stores opened, there were already 4 tour buses and about 75% of the parking spots full. Once we parked, I let Shayne sniff around some green spaces before starting our 2 mile walk up and down the rows upon rows of stores.
Shayne was absolutely amazing! She moved through the crowds with me beautifully, only needing a few “resets” to get her back with me and those moments happened largely when my mom moved ahead of us. She stayed with me, got close when we were squeezed on the small sidewalks. I started out with a very high rate of reinforcement (probably every 6 to 8 steps) but dropped it significantly as we got into a groove. I was so very impressed with her LLW (which was positionally more a heel than our typical LLW)… I mean it was probably 2 hrs of LLW. I gave her a break to go sniff periodically but it required a lot of stamina to keep working. I was so impressed with her ability to work for that long. She was also brilliant at just relaxing next to me when given the opportunity. She was just so relaxed even among some pretty large crowds of people (and tons of strollers… just in this picture there are three strollers LOL!)
As we were walking and shopping, when my mom wanted to go into a shop, Shayne would either lay down right next to the bench I was sitting on or under it to stay out of the way. I must have scared the daylights out of 4 people who sat on the bench next to me because I would be talking to Shayne periodically and the people thought I was talking to myself! HAHA! They didn’t even realize I had a dog with me because she just so quiet, calm, and nicely tucked under/next to the bench completely out of the way. She was even totally relaxed as kids ran by, strollers rolled by, wheel chairs and walkers rattled passed, and adults with shopping bags waddled past. She was brilliant with just chilling patiently and staying out of the way. I must have had a dozen people approach me and tell me how well behaved she was–to which, like always, I responded, “Thanks, we work really hard!”
During our 2 mile shopping trip we walked by a small-ish terrier mix (maybe a scruffy JRT/Min Pin mix). The handler was sitting on a bench with this dog on a flexi-lead about 6 or 7 ft extended (which was WAY too long given how packed the mall was). I saw the pup at the last minute and gave the pup more room but as we passed this dog had a full-tilt reaction. Barking, lunging, growling, and even snapping at us as we walk by…. how does my reactive/fearful/not-dog-friendly dog react? She looks at me as we pass by and gives the dog a few looks as we walk away from it. No pulling, no reacting back, nothing. She really wasn’t bothered at all by this dog having a big aggressive response. I was so impressed!
One of the things I love about this facility is that, prior to a few years ago, it was very dog friendly and many stores not just allowed but welcomed shoppers with their canine pals. Since the facility was bought by another company, they have tried to crack down on stores allowing dogs inside but there are still a few stores that welcome dogs. One of them is a shoe store (that I’m keeping nameless so they don’t get in trouble) whose manager and employees love when dogs come visit. I met them last year with Rio and they were just smitten with him… but they were completely wowed with Shayne. They snuggled her and pet her and waited on me hand….and, erm, foot so they could hang with her LOL! She really liked saying hi to everyone and she was ridiculously patient as I tried on tons of shoes.
I have always tried to teach Shayne good store manners because I think a well behaved dog makes it more likely that stores will continue to welcome dogs. When I was living in New York, many of my local stores were dog friendly and invited me into the store with Shayne. It was great shopping and walking her all at once! The stores in that area were all pretty small and tightly packed with merchandise. Since the stores were small, I taught Shayne to lay down between me and the shelf that I’m looking at so she’s out of the way and worked to make her as “invisible” as possible… she’d greet people when I said she could and not solicit attention from other shoppers. While in the shoe store this weekend, Shayne was on a long down stay by the front door as I tried on shoes and at least 5 people mentioned, “wow, I walked right by your dog when I came in and never even noticed a dog was in the store!” The biggest fuss came from the employees who were very excited to see her and drew attention to the fact there was a dog in the store LOL! Before leaving the store I asked permission to take a few photos of her in the store for the blog and they were perfectly fine with me taking photos. They absolutely loved her and were very happy to invite us in (even though I had been invited in with Rio last year, I was sure to ask before bringing her in).
It was such an amazing day filled with compliment after compliments on her behavior and her being this social little butterfly. She greeted so many people, from young kids to and elderly woman in a wheel chair. She ignored an aggressively reacting dog just 6ft away from her. She was not sniffing every bag that walked by her. She settled beautifully while my mom or I shopped. Did I mention how incredibly friendly she was to men, women, and children who asked to pet her. Or how she walked so beautifully for so long in such a high distraction area? She really did blow me away!
The only “negative” thing I realized is that I haven’t done much name response work in probably two years and it shows. She no longer has that instant response to her name….so I need to work on that but it was so minor!
It was an exhausting but totally amazing day! By the time we left, the parking lots were full (people in their cars waiting to find someone to follow back to their car for a spot!) and there were an additional 3 tour buses parked… so it was packed! We were there for nearly 4 hours and she was still spot on until I gave her the release cue to sniff all the way back to the car (which was a bit of a hike LOL)!
**For the record, I’m sure there are some people who are very against bringing pet dogs into stores. I would never ever bring a dog into a store uninvited and I would never say my dogs, no matter how well trained, are service dogs. I make a habit to always ask and will leave the store if another patron has a really big problem (though this has never happened before). I also work to make sure my dogs are comfortable and very well behaved in those environments. So, my apologies to those who are against dogs being allowed in non-pet stores…