Training plan to prepare your dog to visit a pet friendly market

For many families a trip to a market is part of their weekend routine. With an increasing number of markets being pet friendly, families are taking their dog along too.

However, markets from a dog’s perspective can be really daunting and stressful places. Consider the proximity to strangers including children, food smells, loud noises (music, public announcement systems), unusual sights like flapping flags and balloons, and other dogs or other animals (e.g. ponies, llama, poultry, birds etc) in a restricted space and potentially in hot weather and you can see for dogs to truly feel comfortable at a market requires some preparation.

Here are some skills you may consider teaching your dog, so they feel comfortable attending a market.

1. Walking close to strangers

We want our dog to be able to walk calmly and confidently close (brushing past) all types of people. There are two dimensions to this skill. Firstly, walking close to people and secondly, socialising the dogs to all types of people they may encounter at a market.

Why not enlist the help of some friends to help train your dog this skill? Like with all training, start at distance from your helps and reward the dog for keeping a loose leash as they walk calmly past. Over several training sessions, as the dog’s confidence grows then reduce the distance the dog walks past your helpers.

When your dog is confident brushing past your helpers, then start practising this exercise with different types of people – at a distance first. Consider practising with people wearing different hats, carrying bags with food, pushing strollers, pulling shopping carts, wearing high visibility vests, carrying walkie talkies, using a wheelchair including electric wheelchairs, carrying balloons, children, older people, or people using a cane or walker.

2. Socialise your dog to sights and sounds

Consider as many things that your dog may see and hear at markets and perform training “set ups” of these things in quiet environment. Start training at a low intensity and over several sessions increase the intensity (i.e. distance to the object, number of objects, noise level etc) as the dog’s confidence grows. Reward the dog for being calm. Things you may want to use in training are:
  • Balloons
  • Flags
  • Cookware being dropped and clanging together
  • Loud music
  • People speaking loudly
  • Other animals like dogs, horses, birds etc

3. Good manners

Another set of skills you may like to consider training your dog fall into the category of “good manners”. For instance, if you are making a purchase, most stallholders won’t want your dog putting their feet or head on their produce, so consider what you would like your dog to do? In this scenario, you may want your dog to sit by your side or “squish” in front of your legs so they are out of the way.

When you stop and relax for a coffee, what do you want the dog to do? You may consider bringing a mat and asking the dog to stay on their mat while you relax. At busy markets, you may teach your dog to sit under your chair or behind your legs.

Tips for attending the market for the first time with your dog

Once you have trained your dog their “market” skills at home or in a quiet, familiar area, then you are ready to take your skills on the road. Here are some tips for success:
  • Find a market or place where there is plenty of space for you to move your dog away from people, noises and smells. For instance, there are often markets in large parks, where the stalls are a good distance apart or practice outside at a smaller, suburban shopping centre.
  • Treat the first couple of sessions as dog training sessions. Don’t try and do your shopping on these trips – just focus on your dog.
  • Keep initial sessions short and focus on just one or two skills. For instance, you may just take your dog to a stall and practice sitting while you look at the produce. You may take their mat and relax at a distance from the market. This is a great session because you are working on the dog’s mat work and also letting them see, hear and smell the market at a safe and comfortable distance.

Teamwork Dogs provides group training for dogs aged from 10 weeks through to adulthood. Our focus is on building teamwork between you and your dog. In all our courses, we help you recognise when you dog is not feeling comfortable and provide them with the appropriate support. We also teach settling on a mat, loose lead walking and other “good manners” skills. For graduates of our Foundation course, we offer intermediate level training where skills like walking close to other dogs and people and exposure to unusual stimuli (like plastic bags, flags, balloons etc) are covered.

For more information about our courses please click here

Happy training!

Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay