I had a WONDERFUL session with Elizabeth, who suffers from PTSD and anxiety, and her SDIT, Zoe! Elizabeth already takes Zoe to work with her every day, and Zoe has a wonderful little “nesting” spot with blankets and chew toys and water and everything she needs so she is happy and calm – and never leaves Elizabeth’s side. Elizabeth takes her out to the park area near her office where they take walks and potty breaks as often as needed, and they spend their lunch hour together walking or frolicking. There are deer in the park, and Zoe just wants to PLAY with them!!! The deer look at her like, “What the heck ARE you?”
Anyway, today we went to HEB. It was crowded, but not too badly. Zoe was perfect. Elizabeth still needs to work on maintaining her confidence in Zoe’s amazing abilities – but that is something that comes with time. I explained to Elizabeth that Zoe was doing exactly what she needed to do – avoiding distractions, smells, loud noises, doing perfect meet and greets, and that it was OK that Zoe often walks with her nose to the ground sniffing – she’s got quite a good nose on her! We even practiced sit/stays and down/stays in the middle of semi-busy aisles – and Zoe was great. I did the first few rounds, and Zoe stayed the length of the aisle – then as soon as I said “Come”, she scampered right to me and went into a sit. When Elizabeth tried it, I know it was a bit frustrating for her, because Zoe is SO bonded to Elizabeth that it is more difficult to understand that if Elizabeth puts her in a sit/stay and walks away facing her, repeating the word “stay” with her hand up and maintaining eye contact, that Elizabeth is not “leaving” her. But after a few intense practice sessions, Zoe started to understand that Elizabeth was just going a short distance, and she started to feel more comfortable with staying until Elizabeth told Zoe to “come”.
Even though this type of occurrence is not something that one would usually expect to happen in a public place, I explained to Elizabeth the reasoning behind the necessity of learning this behavior. If, for some reason, Elizabeth were to drop the leash accidentally in any public place – especially a busy one – and Elizabeth walked away without realizing it, it would be very important for Zoe’s safety to have Elizabeth be able to immediately turn and tell Zoe to stay, for Zoe’s safety – especially at a distance.
I also reiterated that Elizabeth should only be carrying specialized training treats that are easily accessible to her when we are doing training or when she is out with Zoe. Overall, Zoe and Elizabeth did a wonderful job. We just need to work on Elizabeth’s confidence that Zoe is doing just fine!!