I’m at ClickerExpo (CE), a fantastic national animal training and behavior conference, with my dog, Tango. If you read this blog, you know he’s my favorite boy. He’s “the best dog ever,” a phrase my husband is sick of hearing, as I say it multiple times every single day.
But he really is — he’s the best dog ever. He’s my “go anywhere” dog. He started out as a service dog in-training. He would have made a fabulous service dog. His service career was cancelled when x-rays showed elbow trouble at a year old. He spent a year in public as a service dog trainee and his adjustment to pet dog status wasn’t smooth. He loved public access — he wanted to continue to go everywhere with me: he didn’t understand that his release from the service dog program ended his public access.
For that very reason, I got him involved in therapy work. There isn’t a happier therapy dog out there. He loves his weekly elementary school visits where he’s allowed access to areas forbidden to “regular dogs.” I know I’m anthropomorphizing, but the pep in his step, the way he holds his head high, and the way he leads ME to the classroom can’t be mistaken: he BELONGS in public (according to him).
So when it comes time for ClickerExpo, he’s my go-to boy, as they allow (no, encourage) attendance with well-behaved dogs. Tango considers this another “forbidden access” privilege (even though ALL dog- and people-friendly dogs are allowed at CE) and he absolutely delights in this kind of access.
The beauty of a well-trained, friendly dog is that they really can go anywhere (that they’re allowed, of course). Here’s the thing: not every well-trained, friendly dog *should* go everywhere. Some dogs simply wouldn’t enjoy it: there is applause, tight quarters with other (tempting) dogs, public address systems (that sometimes malfunction and squeal loudly), and almost no nap-time. If you’ve spent any time with your dog, you know that they sleep a lot. Naps are an integral part of their day. At CE, there are limited napping opportunities, and often, the dogs are too keyed up to *really* sleep.
Tango is my only go-anywhere dog. I’m fortunate to have one — there aren’t a whole lot of that kind of dog out there. Nemo, our Dane/Hound mix (and K9 Nose Work star) wouldn’t be happy at a conference like this. Lily, the sweet Labrador matriarch of our household, would be so stressed.
Not every dog is conference-appropriate, but a little bit of training goes a long way. Every year, we take Nemo to our MLB farm team’s doggie day in the ballpark event. That event affords him the space he needs and it’s short enough that he enjoys his time there. Lily enjoys long nature hikes (where we’re unlikely to run into many dogs). If we hadn’t spent time teaching them good manners, they wouldn’t be afforded that access. Good manners allow them a lot more “freedom.”
The moral of this story: spend time to teach your dog good manners. It may take a few “good manners” classes (which means an investment of your time and your money). Also: know your dog. More importantly: HONOR your dog and his (or her) personality and preferences. This conference *just happens* to be right up Tango’s alley. He’s the best conference companion a girl could ask for. And he’ll be ten years old in a couple of months — we’re going to do as much as we can together while he still enjoys it.
Do you have a “go-anywwhere” dog? Where do you go together? Or, really, more importantly: do you NOT have a go-anywhere dog and if so, where do you go so the two of you can enjoy one another’s company? Please leave a comment and let everyone know!