“I train German police dogs. They send them to me, with all this formal training, they are prepared to defend and protect, but they are clueless when it comes to walking into a pet supply store. So I take them to PetSmart® to start getting them used to everyday life, the feeling of the floor on their paws, and how to socialize with people in the general public.”
Those are the words of an acclaimed nationally known dog trainer, who a few years ago, shared those words with me during an interview on how to properly socialize a dog. There are at least 10 reasons that all dogs need to go to stores like PetSmart, and the aforementioned is but one of them.
The folks at PetSmart are celebrating the arrival of the complete line of Natural Balance® products in their stores. My dog shops at PetSmart at least weekly (and takes me along to pay the bill), so we headed to our local store for some treat scouting, socializing, and fun with a Mommy and Me day. It is a fun way to bond with your dog, but there are some serious reasons, too, that going to stores like PetSmart is good for your dog in general. How many of these can you relate to?
(1) Getting Acclimated to Car Rides: Few things are more disheartening on a dog-friendly vacation or road trip as when a dog is fearful, has gastric upset, or becomes nervous far from home. Slowly adjusting your dog to how fantastic a car ride can be is the key to success. Never force or make a travel fearful dog to “face their fears.” This will only reinforce fears, can lead to extreme anxiety, panic, and cause an accident. Using Pavlov’s principle, if the only time a dog experiences the car is to see the vet, both vet and ride can become unpleasant experiences. Slowly increase the amount of time a dog spends in the car. I started with Dexter many years ago by riding to the end of the street and back and then celebrating with treats and play time when he did it. Do the same thing at PetSmart: Upon arrival and once in the store, be happy and make it a positive experience. Take treats with you.
(2) Potty Training on Various Surfaces: Prior to entering any establishment, I make sure my dog does his potty routine and at least does a pee break. By training your dog to urinate on a variety of surfaces, including grass, gravel, rocks, wood chips, and even cement, it really will benefit you and the dog in the long run. Take it from a page in this dog journeywoman’s diary: There is no greater joy than pouring rain, no rest stop in sight, and a slab of concrete readily available ala roadside. My fur-boy and I even have a code word to initiate: go-go-go. When he hears those three magic words, I know the process shall begin and both mama and son can take shelter from the storm or snow.
(3) Learn About Treats and Food: By visiting PetSmart, you can ask associates about the various treats and dog foods available to ensure the formulas and ingredients are right for your dog and his or her needs. Case in point: My dog has some food sensitivities, so I appreciate having someone on hand to answer any questions I might have. Dexter tends to pick his own treats out, as you can see below, but he may not always know what he can and can’t eat. In fact, he would sometimes love to just rip into a treat bag right in the store. Uh, clean up: Aisle two?!
(4) Socialize with Other Dogs: The more community and socializing you can do with your dog, the better. Dogs who see other dogs, in a controlled environment, can sniff each other and say hello are more inclined to accept those dogs, not bark at them, not be fearful, and learn to be kind to fellow canines. PetSmart is usually a hub of activity on weekends, so while you stop by for treats and food, walk the aisles and say hello to fellow dog moms and dads.
(5) Try Before You Buy: How many toys have you purchased for your dog that end up in the “I no longer play with it pile?!” By taking your dog with you to the store, your dog can give a toy a trial run, so to speak. I squeak toys, rattle them towards my dog, and see if he has a genuine interest in them.
(6) Interact With Strangers: Do you want your dog to be wary of people or social and unafraid of new people? Being immersed in the sights, sounds, and hubbub of a retail experience are great ways to get a dog used to strangers.
(7) Train for the Canine Good Citizen (CGC): My dog was awarded Canine Good Citizen status by the AKC and it happened purely on a whim. He never took a class to train for it, we didn’t practice the specific elements of the test previously, and only on prompting of family and friends did we decide to try it. The fee is $10 to test. Normally there are no distractions in the vicinity when the dog is being tested. However, since the testing occurred at a very busy pet expo, there were a lot of distractions. What better way to get a dog used to passersby, other pets, and noise than at a store like PetSmart?
(8) Bonding Time: I am a dog mom. I like love it when folks call me a dog mom and I never grimace, furrow a brow, or correct them. In fact, a sense of pride swells over me. I am not alone. Dog moms should celebrate and dog dads, too. Want to bond with your dog? Have a mommy/daddy and me day: Do all the things that make your dog happy. On our recent visit, we picked up a bag of Natural Balance Duck and Potato Limited Ingredient Treats and Dex loved having the goodies! The Wall Street Journal even revealed “PetSmart Thrives Treating Owners Like Pet Parents.” We’re not losing our marbles, we’re being embraced and converted to dollar signs, for wag’s sake! Continue your dog with a romp in the park, a drive-through for a quick burger, a ride around the area, and maybe even a picnic for your dog and his friends.
(9)Photo Ops: Purely fun, but I admittedly get some of my favorite photos while having a retail therapy time with my dog. Yes, I take photos with toys and fellow dogs, and when the holidays roll around, I love interacting with the other pet parents. Santa photos last year took a twist and we even got photos in store with a Frozen theme. Plus we picked up this cute snowman costume:
(10) Give Back: The fundraising arm of this blog is Wigglebutt Warriors®, and year round we encourage dog lovers to give back. PetSmart registers are equipped with a feature to give back to pets in need. We generally pay for our purchases and then when prompted, give a few extra dollars to pets who are not as fortunate. While in store, there are always folks gathered around the cat adoption area, and friends of ours even adopted a cat from PetSmart. There are some things that money cannot buy, but giving to a pet in need is one of the most feel-good things you can do.
Do you take your dog to PetSmart for retail therapy? Does he or she get excited on arrival like our dog does? On your next visit, snap a photo, try out some of the Natural Balance line available in store, and share it with us on our Facebook page: We’d love to share your sweetie with our dog-loving followers and fans.