Human Encounters and Distractions during Outings
Most puppy raisers have likely had a stranger come up to their puppy in training and attempt to pet or talk to them. Even when the dog is donning a green training jacket that implies they are working, many people are unfamiliar with guide dog training and service dog rules or just cannot fight the urge to pet an adorable dog.
Developing a puppy’s good behavior in public is one of the primary goals for a puppy raiser. Familiarizing the puppy to different situations and navigating through frequent socialization is important, but unwelcome attention from people distracts the dog and encourages them to pick up undesirable behaviors to solicit attention. To prevent this, the raiser should not allow anyone to pet or come too close to the puppy unless given permission to do so. The raiser must be in full control and make sure the puppy remains calm. It is beneficial to instruct an approaching person to do so slowly, and if the puppy becomes overstimulated they should be removed from the situation.
Rewards and praise are used to reinforce positive puppy behavior. At a young age, dogs may require a constant dispensing technique called “pezzing” to force the dog to focus on the handler when another person approaches. As the dogs mature they learn to not react to such encounters. In order not to offend, it is important for the raiser to use a positive tone while explaining that the puppy is in training.
Calm behavior around humans is practiced often at club meetings and outings. All club members make sure to have the handler’s permission when greeting puppies wearing their jackets. It’s fun to watch the younger puppies’ tails wag as they try to contain their excitement when seeing friendly faces, but it is also amazing that they are able to resist the temptations. It is also common during walks to see other pet owners have their dogs try and greet the puppies in training, but that is highly discouraged. These situations are harder to avoid in close proximity, so it’s best to avoid pet dogs by taking a different walking route if the approaching dog isn’t well behaved. Dog distractions are regularly introduced at meetings in various ways, such as having the puppies walk around each other and to witness if they can follow commands without becoming distracted.
As raisers, it is difficult to not greet dogs with joy and excitement, but we must constantly remind ourselves that these puppies are learning. Even small interactions can influence them. To raise successful guide dogs, raisers must be keenly aware of their surroundings and educate others in the community to be mindful of these hard working pups.