Bellingham dog owners are blessed with many ways to incorporate their furry friends into their outdoor lifestyles. Local coffee shops and brew pubs welcome dogs onto their patios, and stores like Village Books make shopping together easy. It feels like every new client’s ultimate goal is to take their dogs to Starbucks or Kulshan — they want their dog to be calm and appropriate no matter what comes their way. There are dogs for whom this is easy — they are well adjusted and calm by nature. This should not be taken for granted by their people. But those dogs can make some owners smug and others shamed for their dog’s “poor” but often normal or understandable behavior. For clients who have new pups, they are working through puppyhood to teach skills and maintain solid temperaments. Other clients are working with dogs who, for reasons ranging from poor breeding to an impoverished early puppyhood, are struggling to overcome a myriad of social or behavioral handicaps. Let’s take a look at:

The Café Complex 

This request to be calm while you’re having a beer at Chuckanut or a coffee at Woods is a series of small behaviors mastered — not a single behavior. These skills, mastered and reliable, offered together are called a “well behaved dog.” It comes easier to some than others. One possible breakdown of what it takes to go to the patio with your dog successfully:

  1. He waits quietly in the car while you collect all the things: leash, treats, a purse, your wits.
  2. Exits the car upon hearing his release cue and then stands or sits nicely while you lock up the car (implied stay).
  3. Walks with a loose leash all the way to the outdoor seating area – no matter what is seen: Kids, food, other dogs, people, etc., (well “proofed”).
  4. At the table, lays down (or settles) for 1-2 hours while getting ignored by0601161358everyone at the table.
  5. Does not get up for dropped food or waiters approaching (well “proofed” stay).
  6. Stays laying down, or at least does not jump up, while people get their things to leave.
  7. Walks back to the car with the same loose lead walk no matter what happens.
  8. Waits calmly while you unlock the car and set down all the stuff.
  9. Finally jumps into car when asked.

Whew! That’s a lot. Remember, there are two larger components to this canine field trip:

  1. Skills Mastery: There are about seven cued behaviors listed above. Each needs to be trained up to that level of understanding in your dog before they are able to reliably demonstrate the skills easily and at all times.
  2. Sound Mental Health: Stability and flexibility of the mind, and self-control or inhibition of natural tendencies are needed to handle all the things that can come a dog’s way in the Café Complex.

You may be fortunate to have a puppy from a happy home with a well-adjusted dog-mom and a solid puppyhood. You will be working on training the above skills and maintaining your pup’s solid mental health. Or your dog may be an adolescent who has seen several homes and, to put it mildly, wasn’t born with a silver dog bowl. This dog is likely to experience some anxiety or fears around at least one, if not more than one, component of this field trip. You will possibly need to work on a behavior modification program to focus on handling stress and fear before teaching the skills.

Stay patient with yourself and your dog while you both work toward your goals. Break down each section of the field trip and set a bar for success your dog has a chance of meeting. Bring lots of training

treats and look for moments of success. Work on each of the behaviors separately until you are ready to use them in public. For dogs overcoming mental health issues, you may have to do short trips or go only to certain places at first. Always have a management plan in place to cover the areas you aren’t ready for yet.

Be a resource. Be reliable. Be ready.

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