Are you a new pet parent who couldn’t socialise their puppy fully during lockdown? Recently brought a rescue dog into the family? Or perhaps you just have a pup who’s nervous being in the big wide world. There’s lots of reasons why your pup may not be the most confident canine when out and about.
Dog behaviourist and training expert Philippa Short is here to help. Philippa talks about building your dog’s confidence in public places, including making sure you’re doing it in your pup’s best interest.
To know when your dog is ready to try going out in public, first think about your goals for taking them out. Is it for you or your dog’s socialising needs?
Some dogs love being social, walking around busy streets and heading into pubs and cafes. For other pups, this wouldn’t be top on their list of fun activities. Then there’s the in-between dogs, who might like to go out in busy public areas but haven’t really had the chance. This is where you’ll want to gently expose them and see if they enjoy it.
It’s about balance, so knowing when your dog is ready depends on their:
Setting any dog up for success in public places is about being mindful and making sure their needs are being met.
For example, what day of the week and time of day is it? Are you going somewhere that’s often busy? Going somewhere overstimulating too quickly could make your pooch hyperactive and mentally exhausted.
Here’s a few ways you can help to meet your dog’s needs in public:
Start building your dog’s confidence with outdoor venues first. Weather permitting, of course (you try getting a Dachshund out in the slightest bit of drizzle). Outdoor public places are less threatening and there are easier exits to get your dog out if needed.
To build your dog’s confidence in shops and markets, think about:
To build your dog’s confidence in pubs and restaurants, try to:
Have a more nervous, shy, or non-socialised dog? There’s a few extra things you can do to help set them up for success in public:
Training your dog to be calm in public takes time and patience. You’ll want to give them the tools to be as relaxed as possible. We’re talking:
Helping your dog to learn how to settle down can be an invaluable tool for many situations (did someone say vet visit?). You’ll need a portable bed, mat or cushion they find comfy as their ‘settle spot’ and slowly build up value.
For this example, we’ll use a cushion:
Always keep in mind that certain breeds may not want to sit on a mat. Bigger, long-haired breeds can get too hot, so may prefer to lie on a cold floor, especially in warmer months.
Now that your canine is more comfortable with being out in public and is happy to be there, where do you go?
You can often tell if a place is dog-friendly because they’ll put a water bowl outside the front of their shop or restaurant. Another tell-tale is a sign outside that says ‘dogs welcome’!
Many UK stores, supermarkets, and restaurants are now allowing companion dogs (not just assistance dogs) into their buildings. You can look up different dog-friendly venues by area on the Dog Friendly website search tool.
Keep in mind that each venue will have its own rules for letting dogs in, such as:
You might have spotted some ‘dog parking’ hooks on the walls of public venues. It’s never a good idea to leave your dog unattended and tied up to one of these spots. They could be at risk of being snatched or getting defensive if someone tries to grab at them.
If you’re going out in public with your pooch, you’ll need a well-fitting collar or harness with an ID disc. This is one of several UK dog laws and your responsibility as a pet owner. The ID tag should have their surname, address, and postcode. Adding a telephone number is completely optional.
Ready to explore the world with your pup? Don’t forget to protect them against the unexpected with Petsure dog insurance.
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