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Peace of mind... for pets and their people.
Socializing our pets is really good business
In self-indulgent celebration of this, my 100th column in the Sunday News Journal, I would like to present a topic that I have a particular interest in. That is, the comfort and ability to take our pets with us to places. A friend recently asked me whether I take my dog with me when I go into various work/shopping settings. Since I love being able to take Chase, my ridgeback, with me, I could only confess that when the weather isn't too extreme (hot/cold), I will take him with me, but leave him in the car [in a shaded spot, with the windows open about 2 inches. I have at times, in my efforts to keep the car from getting too hot, parked only inches away from the side of a building/wall so that I could securely leave the windows down on that side of my car.]. My friend asked me why I don't take him in with me. I replied that I have always wanted to bring him into the school with me when I go to pick up my daughters; however, I haven't ...simply out of respect to the staff and students, of whose attitudes concerning dogs I am not certain. Chase is a big dog. And while he is about the friendliest dog you could meet, some people are just plain scared of dogs, especially big ones. It's easy to conjure the image of an older celebrity-type woman carrying her little Yorkie with her wherever she might go... into stores and markets, business meetings and, of course, onto the set of her latest film. And many people with little dogs do this with general acceptance. Why? Because there is an overall feeling of security when a little animal (which is perceptually less-threatening than a big one) is being held (i.e., is under-control). This same sense of security and acceptance can easily be fostered for virtually any dog. It is widely known that in many European countries, dogs go everywhere with owners. They are socialized to these various situations as puppies and learn, for instance, to lay quietly under chairs and tables at restaurants. They grow up with numerous exposures to people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and color, and become comfortable with, trusting, and accepting of people in general. Problems are generated when dogs receive little or no exposure to a variety of people and settings. When these dogs do encounter new situations/people, the novelty of these exposures for them is naturally more arousing. And when an animal is more aroused or excited, it is more likely to get out of control (e.g., exhibiting overexcited greeting or fearful behaviors, assertions of dominance, etc.). These potentially problematic interactions must be taken into consideration. This is why therapy dogs, which go into nursing homes and other settings undergo specific training to attain certification. With certification (Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog International) comes the peace of mind that these are good/well-adjusted dogs that can go into different situations and remain relaxed, friendly and in control. Any dog owner knows why they would want to bring their companions with them to the places they go. Cause you love being with them, and they love being with you. But why would business owners want you to bring your dog into their place of business? After all, if such endeavors are to be successful, they have to be mutually beneficial to all parties involved. It really boils down to the spreading of joy. Dogs are the great social facilitators of our time. When people are in your shop, and they have highly pleasurable experiences through the sight of or interaction with a beautiful, calm/loving dog, then they will be that much more likely to want to come back to your shop... because we all invariably seek out pleasurable experiences. Moreover, the dog owning/loving market is enormous. More and more businesses are recognizing this. Many hotels and inns, for example, are becoming pet friendly, because the market favors and supports this move. Contact with animals has been proven again and again in study after study to relax people. Encouraging certified therapy dogs into our other-than-home-environments naturally encourages the flow of people who are seeking relaxing, pleasurable experiences. And this translates into increased revenues for people that welcome the vast dog loving community into their businesses. Business Owners.... Call! or send me your card... and I'll compose a list which will be gratefully received by the pet-loving community in your midst. Pet-loving Community.... Train your pets with love, positive reinforcement, and consistent guidance; and pass a fair and reasonable test to gain certification as a therapy dog so that you and your dog can be comfortably/securely accepted into the places that you visit. For Lists of Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dogs International test descriptions, dates and locations, and for all the dog event/class/etc. info you could ever want, call (516) 541-3442 and get a subscription to the Match Show Bulletin, a monthly publication. Puppy-owners.... Socialize your growing/learning pet with regular exposures to malls, parks, stores, schools, etc... so that it can get habituated to and comfortable with these environments. As we continue to reconnect with the world of nature that surrounds us, we become ever more equipped to care for it and all the life of which it is comprised. The benefits that loving animals bring to our lives are incomparable. Reintegrating them more fully into the varied aspects of our lives is a small and easy step on what is really a journey of reintegrating ourselves into the wonderful world of nature, which humankind for so long has tried to escape.