Practicing Loose-Leash Walking and Other Skills in Home Depot

One of my training goals this fall is to visit different places with each dog separately. Give them each some special time with me and work on their socialization, basic commands, and loose-leash walking.

Sunday morning Bernie and I ventured over to the Home Depot. At first he was super distracted by the smells.

He wanted to sniff every cabinet and all of the lumber. I should have known. We joke about Bernie being a Sierra Club Member with all the sniffing and twig chewing he does. Even when I put him in his first sit-stay for some practice, he was not focused on me at all. He kept looking around and sniffing the air.

We had just finished weaving in and out of the doors and windows display area, so I put Bernie in a sit to reward him. From behind me, a fully grown standard Poodle erupted onto the scene. The poor thing was pulling his handler, paws slip-sliding all over the slick floor, and both dogs started barking. Bernie and I high-tailed it out of that area.

Once we got down another aisle, I was talking to Bernie and gauging how tense he still seemed. I gave him the command to sit. And my little prince, my pup who usually listens so well, flat out refused to sit even with a hand signal and a few light taps on his butt.

I saw this box for a chair randomly placed in the hardware aisle, so I used my proximity to gently back Bernie into the corner and even then he didn't sit right away. I had to give him another verbal command and hover over him before he sat. And look at that face. He's sitting, but he has not actually shaken off the encounter with the other dog.

Lesson learned for me. After a negative interaction, spend more time letting Bernie get re-adjusted. Give him some sniffing time. Keep walking. Keep talking to him. Maybe let him go outside for a potty break. I have to remember that he's in a completely new environment to him, so I need to let him re-calibrate a bit more slowly.

When we first arrived, Bernie wanted to sniff every cabinet or piece of wood. Even in this sit-stay, he was more focused on the sniffs than me.
Another dog came up behind me and the two pups scared each other. After putting some distance between the dogs, I was talking to Bernie and soothing him. But when I asked him to sit, he flat out refused, which is very unDoodlelike behavior for him. I backed him into the corner of this display to help him sit down.

With that sad pup face staring at me, I decided we needed to check out the Halloween decor. Bernie had a ball sniffing the witches, ghosts, ghouls, and mummies. There was even a werewolf figure. And then we found the skeleton wolf, which I dubbed the haunted hound.

At first, Bernie jumped back when he heard the howl. Luckily, we came around the corner as the hound was finishing a round of howls. Bernie seemed equal parts fascinated and scared by this strange creature. Ultimately, he was okay with sniffing the skeleton, but only briefly.

And then another customer pointed out that there was a skeleton cat too. He touched the cat, which immediately began hissing and making yowling noises. All I could envision was Bernie attacking this plastic skeleton cat, and tumbling over an entire display area, so we quickly turned the corner and smelled some pumpkins instead.

Bernie loved sniffing the mummies, ghosts, ghouls, witches, and pumpkins on display at Home Depot.
Bernie was fascinated by this skeleton wolf. I referred to this creature as the haunted hound. Even though a few kids kept setting off the motion sensor on this skeleton hound, Bernie never barked.

Now that my guy had his grove back on, we started walking around various sections of Home Depot. There wasn't much machinery noise today, but he had some fun weaving around the household appliances.

We practiced sit-stay with much better results!

Now Bernie's got his groove on. He's sitting and staying like a pro. Even with all the paint chips to distract him. So much paper that could be destroyed!
Bernie walking up and down aisles of appliances at Home Depot.

Most of the aisles I had aimed for had been empty. Once Bernie had a few sit-stays going on, though, we started going down some aisles with people.

Here's Bernie proudly sitting in a stay position after walking down an aisle with six different people, some with shopping carts. Plus he had to avoid the orange ladder and a few aisle displays. He walked to my side and slightly behind me the entire way. I don't require Bernie to heel. Usually if it's just the two of us, he walks next to me, but in the more crowded aisles, he understood to get slightly behind me and follow my lead.

I'm really proud of my guy! He did well today. And I do like being able to get out with each pup separately. Not only does it make it easier to work on specific skills, I think each pup knows they're getting special bonding time with me.

Proud Bernie...after navigating an aisle with several people, shopping carts, displays, and those large orange ladders! He walked next to me, slightly heeled and kept his focus on where he was going..

How do you spend quality time with your pet?