Groceries and bagels with a friend (and without a mat)

This morning my friend and dog trainer Susan took me to Food Lion to get some groceries. I brought Felix with me, of course, and I used my wheelchair as walking around grocery stores often makes my hips hurt.

I had Felix on my lap because it’s very difficult for me to shop and train at the same time. Felix was very good in my lap, ignoring two people who really wanted to distract him. The first time we were in an aisle and one of them was walking by and stopped to baby talk him. I told him “ignore” (which isn’t really a command for him—it’s more of a hint to the person distracting him) and the lady kept going. So I finally told her “He’s working” and she continued to talk to him in a baby voice about how she knew he was working and that was why she wasn’t petting him. Sigh.

The other time was in checkout. Now Felix is very used to ignoring baby talk, but the checkout lady started making strange noises with her mouth to try to get his attention. I told him to leave it, and he turned his head around and looked at me. Susan told the cashier that he was working, but the woman didn’t seem to understand, so I said “Thank you for helping me work on his training to ignore people who are trying to distract him!” She paused a moment and I could see her thinking. Then she said “Oh! He’s working! He’s doing such a good job of ignoring things!” and she stopped trying to distract him. So yay, that worked!

While we were in the store, I did put Felix down to work on a visit command with Susan. He didn’t go over to see her because I had freeze dried goat cheese in my hand. But when she called him, he went over and was very appropriate. Then returned to me for his treat.

We were able to get everything I had on my list, and for cheaper than I had estimated! I mentioned that one of the areas we’re really struggling with is restaurants, so Susan asked if she could take me to the bagel place at the end of the shopping strip. I happily accepted even though I didn’t have Felix’s mat with me! I figured that would be a very good training challenge—to do it without his mat (I always use his mat when he’s at a restaurant!).

I put Felix down on the ground to walk across the parking lot and down the sidewalk, and he did a very good job of heeling. He did make one detour to the grass, so I stopped and let him pee. He went into the restaurant OK, though he did pull a little going through the door (it’s hard to work on “through” without him pulling a little as he has to go in front of me pretty far so my wheelchair doesn’t run into his back legs).

They had a rug that must’ve smelled interesting because I had to remind him a few times not to sniff it. We ordered and Felix did a good job navigating the shop over to our table.

The restaurant workers did try to tell me I couldn’t be in there with a dog, but once I said he was a service dog in training, and they read his vest and leash slide, they were cool with it. Felix did try to go over and say hi to the restaurant worker, though, so I had to remind him that he was working.

When we sat down, suddenly my friend Susan was much more interesting! She is a dog trainer, so smells like dogs (at least to dog noses). Plus in the past week she’s worked with a pig and done herding with sheep! So he really was interested in her shoes. Plus he didn’t have his mat as a place reminder. So at first he got up fairly often to try to go sniff Susan’s shoes. I had to remind him about every bite I took to stay in his down, and he still got up a handful of times.

As time progressed, he started to understand that restaurant behavior is still the same regardless of whether he has his mat or not. When he stood up, I would stop eating and look at him expectantly, and he would think for a second, then lie back down.

By the end of my bagel, he was being fairly good. Not as good as I want him to be eventually, but much more like he typically is in a restaurant.

When I was done eating, I had made a true mess of myself and was covered in “everything bagel” crumbs (all the seeds and stuff). I brushed it all onto the floor in front of him, and he didn’t even try to go investigate! I was very proud of him for that!

It was a big challenge for him to be without his mat, but probably something I should really work on.

When we left, it had started raining again, so we rushed back to the car—again with him heeling really nicely the whole way. At least he has heeling down!

I was and am very thankful to Susan for taking me grocery shopping and buying me breakfast! And for providing Felix with a good training opportunity!

I did get a picture of him doing a down on a grey tile floor in the restaurant. He is a sable and white Japanese Chin wearing a purple service dog in training harness.

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