With Tucker, our first CCI puppy, I couldn’t wait until he was old enough to grocery-shop with me. CCI says puppies shouldn’t begin going on such excursions until they’re at least 4 months old and fully immunized, but I thought it would be the coolest thing imaginable to have an adorable puppy trotting beside me as I trolled the produce or dairy sections.
Since Tucker reached those landmarks almost 10 years ago, I’ve spent more hours than I can begin to remember shopping with a miniature canine companion, and the charm has faded. I’ve learned that taking one’s pup on such outings means combining a fairly complex chore (the shopping) with an even more complex one (dog training). It doubles the work! That’s if you’re doing it right. It’s tempting, sometimes overwhelmingly, to plough through the shopping as fast as possible, while doing the bare minimum to instruct the dog. Kyndall got the last of her puppy shots on February 12th, and she reached the four-month-old mark on Wednesday, but since then we’d only taken her into stores for a quick purchase or two. Yesterday, however, she accompanied me while I shopped for everything on this list:
I did leave her in her kennel in the van while I ran into the bagel store and the fish store (both 5-minute stops), and I was pleased that upon my return, the vehicle was silent — she hadn’t burst into mournful howls or frantic barks in my absence.
At Vons, we followed protocol and she peed (twice) in the parking lot, in response to my urging her to Hurry.
Then we swept through the automatic doors into the thicket of Saturday morning shoppers. I only had 10 items to get, and I paid a lot of attention to Kyndall as we moved up and down the aisles. I ordered her to Sit frequently and rewarded her quick responses. She didn’t look stressed (no ears back or unusual behavior), but rather intrigued to be in this novel environment. The Worst Thing That Can Happen in a Grocery Store (a pooping accident), did not happen. But it did — on TWO occasions! — with Tucker, and scarred by that memory, I started to stress out when I couldn’t immediately find the bacon. (Why does Vons insist on reorganizing its stores so often?) I was certain Kyndall had pooped once early in the morning, but usually she does twice (even, incredibly, sometimes three times), and if there had been a second poop, I had somehow failed to notice it, making me afraid that she was overdue. But again, she had no toileting accidents of any sort, either at Vons or when we moved on to Sprouts.
I can’t say her performance in either store was flawless. I caught her licking the bottom of the check stand at Vons, and she took a lunge or three at other shoppers (seeking to greet them). She wasn’t always in perfect position, next to and slightly behind my knee.
But this was only the very beginning of the long and winding road to graduation. As such, it was a promising start.