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Pets in Public
By Ali Johnson

During a recent visit to Germany, I was pleasantly surprised at the tolerance of the community to the presence of dogs in public settings. In the course of our visit, we lunched at a cafè where a shepherd kept his owners' feet warm and shopped at Woolworth's with a dachshund and her owner.

Unfortunately, our society is less accepting of animals in public settings. Very few businesses, with the exception of pet stores, will allow us to bring our best friends with us. These restrictions are based not only on public health issues, but may also be due to inappropriate behavior exhibited by pets in public.

From the pets' point of view, how would they know how to behave in a restaurant, bookstore, or cafè if they've never been in one? How can we equip our animal companions to deal with environments beyond our homes? Because of the restrictions encountered by our four legged friends, we owners must make an extra effort to help our pets learn how to cope in public.

One important way to start your pet off toward public acceptance is by socializing them. Socialization to a variety of environments, sights, sounds, people, and other animals will help your furry friend learn how to adapt to and even enjoy novel situations. Exposure to new places and people can help your pet get used to being confronted with the unusual, and pairing these experiences with something your pet really likes, such as a special treat, can bring your pet from tolerance to active enjoyment of new things!

In addition to taking your dog or puppy to dog parks, outdoor cafes, pet stores, and picnics, group obedience classes are a terrific way to introduce your buddy to new dogs and people in a positive way. In group classes, your dog benefits both from learning to meet new dogs and people happily, but also from learning to focus on you in an exciting environment.

To further prepare your pet for a life full of new experiences, you can work toward achievement of the Canine Good Citizen, or CGC, title. The CGC test is open to dogs of any age and breed or breed mix and includes 10 test items including: Accept a Friendly Stranger, Sit Politely for Petting, Appearance and Grooming, Out for a Walk, Walk Through a Crowd, Sit/Down/Stay, Come When Called, Reaction to Another Dog, Reaction to Distractions, and Supervised Separation. The Canine Good
Citizen title is given to dog/handler teams that pass all 10 test items, thereby demonstrating responsible dog ownership and basic training proficiency. For a description of the test, please visit http://www.akc.org/events/cgc/training_testing.cfm.

For pets and owners truly exceptional social skills, animal assisted therapy programs offer the opportunity to help others in environments not open to the average pet. One organization that prepares people and their pets to participate in therapy work is the Delta Society. Volunteers and their animals can become "Pet Partner teams" through a certification test given by a Delta licensed evaluator. Prerequisites for becoming a Pet Partner team include handlers being a minimum of 10 years old and accompanied by a parent if under 16 years old. Animals must live with the handler for at least one year. Handler/animal teams must prove that they are calm, gentle and predictable in different environments during the two-part certification test. The first part of the test demonstrates the handler's control of their pet. The second portion of the test involves role-playing and the handler's abilities to interact with their animal and the evaluator. If both sections of the test are completed successfully, the animal must then undergo a health screening by a veterinarian to ensure that they are in good physical shape and free of diseases and parasites. Many different domestic animals can become Pet Partners including dogs, cats, rabbits, llamas, and potbellied pigs, among others. If you are interested in learning more about the Delta Society Pet Partners Program, please visit www.deltasociety.org for more information.