Monday, March 26, 2012

The Dogs Visit Chocolate World

Everyone knows that dogs and chocolate don’t mix. That doesn’t mean that our service dogs in training can’t go to Chocolate World, though!

On Saturday, our puppies in training visited Chocolate World in Hershey. While this is a fun outing, it’s also one of our most challenging outings for our dogs.

Our dogs and puppy raisers congregated in the lobby at Chocolate World, and the dogs instantly became an attraction. This was a wonderful opportunity to practice calm greetings. However, walking into a large crowd in a new place can be overwhelming for dogs, and our puppy raisers did great by moving their dog to a quiet corner when they saw them losing their focus.

One of the main attractions at Chocolate World is the Great American Chocolate Tour Ride, and we give all of our puppies the opportunity to get on the ride. This is the most challenging part of the outing. The dogs need to walk onto a rotating floor and climb into the car that will take them on the tour.

Although some dogs hop right on the ride, some of them need to walk around the rotating floor for a little while before they’re comfortable enough to get on the ride. For others, simply the experience of walking on the rotating floor is enough at this point in their training. Some of our puppy raisers bring their dogs back to Chocolate World later in the dog’s training, and the dog is able to get on the ride. At that point, it’s no longer a new experience for the dog.

We loved watching our puppy raisers set their dogs up for success. For example, SSD Quinn’s puppy raisers decided to take the elevator rather than the stairs to get to the tour ride because they knew that the stairs would increase Quinn’s stress level. Once they got on the rotating floor, they approached one of the cars and asked Quinn to get inside. When he didn’t seem to want to get in, they backed away and walked around the rotating floor for a little while. The next time they approached one of the cars, Quinn hopped in.

Watch the video of Quinn returning from the tour. Look at how calmly he gets out of the car. He does shake himself, which can be a sign of stress, but he’s not so stressed that he can’t focus on his puppy raiser.

After taking the tour, many of our puppy raisers took the dogs through the store. This is also challenging because the dogs need to navigate the crowded aisles and ignore people who reach out to pet them. The dogs did great, and some of our puppy raisers were able to do a little shopping!

We’re very proud of how well the dogs and their puppy raisers did at Chocolate World!

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