Taking Your Dog Shopping
Renae Hamrick, RVT
What could be better than going shopping for a new pair of shoes? How about shopping for shoes with man's best friend, your dog? Shopping with your dog is becoming increasingly popular, and it can be a rewarding experience for both you and your canine friend if done properly.
The Perfect Shopping Dog
Not every dog is cut out for a shopping experience. Seriously consider the behavior, personality, and health of your dog before you hit the malls. A dog should know and obey the basic obedience commands (sit, down, come, heal, and stay) before going into a public place. If your dog is impolite around other people (incessant barking, jumping on people, aggressive towards anyone, etc.), he should stay home while you shop.
To make shopping with your dog a positive experience for both you and your dog, your dog should be happy about the experience. If your dog is a home-body who prefers relaxing with his favorite toy, don't drag him off the couch to go shopping. It won't be a pleasurable experience for you or him. Fearful dogs should also stay at home; it is not fair to place an anxious dog in an unnecessary, frightening situation. Dogs who are not particularly interested in being in a public place may be more easily provoked to bite.
Health is another thing to consider before shopping with your pooch. Don't take a dog who is unable to walk a long distance or who is feeling under the weather. Again, it will not be an enjoyable experience for this dog, and he may be easily provoked to bite.
Before you head out with Fido, check the Internet or call your shopping center of choice to be sure your destination is pet-friendly. Not every shopping center has embraced the craze of shopping with your dog.
When choosing your shopping location, think about the needs of your dog. Are there plenty of exits so your dog can easily take a potty break when needed? Is the shopping center usually very crowded and noisy? Not all dogs can handle the stress of a busy mall; sometimes starting with a small, quiet store is best.
Much like when taking a child shopping, you will need more than your wallet and some cash when taking Fido. Obviously, because your dog will be in a public place, a leash is crucial. Even if your dog is well behaved off-leash, he must wear one while shopping. He will be around lots of merchandise and numerous people, so protect yourself and your dog by having the control of a leash. Besides, using a leash is mandatory in most shopping centers.
Your dog will be excited and possibly even a little nervous about being in a new place surrounded by many new people, so be prepared for the possible doggy accident. Bring a poop bag or two, in case of a needed clean-up inside or outside the shopping center. Some paper towels would also be a good idea. Pet-friendly shopping centers are generally equipped with the proper cleaning supplies, but if you are prepared and pick up after your dog, it gives a good impression of dog-toting shoppers.
Because small dogs are easily stepped on in a crowded area and may tire quickly trying to keep up with his shopping partner, a papoose, handbag, or stroller may be helpful. These accessories are made specially for small pets and can be purchased at most pet stores.
Water and snacks are other handy supplies. Portable water bowls and pet-friendly water bottles are sold at pet stores and would be convenient for quenching your dog's thirst while shopping. Take a pocketful of treats for Fido. Reward him when from time to time when he behaves well while shopping. Situations such as behaving while someone pets him, performing a good sit-stay while you look at a pair of shoes, or healing when walking through a crowded area are good times to reward your dog.
Be safe on the way to the mall. Though it is exciting for Fido and cute to the passers-by, it is not safe to allow your canine friend to hang out the car window. This makes him susceptible to multiple injures. He could fall or jump out of the window, get debris in his eyes, or hurt his head and neck if you have to hit the breaks.
If your dog will tolerate it, a safety belt or car seat designed especially for dogs is ideal when transporting your dog.
When you arrive at your shopping destination, walk your dog outside for several minutes before heading indoors. This will give him the opportunity to "use the facilities" and burn off that initial burst of energy due to excitement.
Pay attention to your dog throughout his shopping experience. Watch for signs that he needs a break. Step outside to give him some quiet time if he seems to be getting stressed. Don't overdue his time there; if he is telling you he wants to go home (even if you are not done shopping), you should take him home. A negative experience may cause your dog to not want to shop with you again.
A positive shopping experience can be the perfect exercise in socialization. Your dog will draw attention from other people, and there will be people wanting to get to know him. If you feel confident in his manners, allow others to pet him. Even the most well-behaved dog can benefit from the experience of meeting new people. Of course, all the cuddles and attention will make shopping even more rewarding for your canine friend.
Shopping with your dog can and should be a fun experience for all. Your dog will enjoy a walk in a new place with the person he loves most in the world. He will receive an abundance of attention, hugs, and smiles from many people. The shoppers around you will have the pleasure of seeing a wagging tail, and it may even be the bright spot that makes their day. You will have the satisfaction of strengthening your human-animal bond and knowing your dog is growing in his obedience and social skills. Not to mention, after a fun day of shopping with your best friend, you will not only have a great new pair of shoes, you will also have a tired, happy dog who is NOT tempted to help you break in those new shoes!