Schooner is in socialization overdrive right now. I'm finding places to go every day so I can get him out and around lots of different sights and sounds. The more he sees in a happy and comfortable way, the less excited he'll be when it's time for him to settle in and get to work with his partner. We're still a good ways away from turn-in day, but the earlier he sees and experiences new situations, the faster he'll become a pro at handling the public life of a service dog. And the better service dog he'll be.
I've made an effort to have a treat bag full of training treats ready to go at the beginning of each week. One of my (many) Sunday night chores is stuffing the treat bag full of delicious, pea-sized food treats. Schooner is picky -- I can't get away with most packaged dog treats with him. He'll turn his nose up at leftover chicken from dinner, for goodness sake! He's definitely not interested in artificially flavored anything! He's a real challenge in that department.
Sometimes I have him out in public for several hours. Summers in the mid-Atlantic can be tough on dog treats. I've had processed meats go bad before I get back home -- ew, so stinky (and embarrasing when the lady in the checkout line sniffs and then turns to look at me as the source of the stink).
I was rushing out the door last week and had Schooner in tow. I got him loaded in the car, made sure I had my purse, my keys, my phone, Schooner's vest, his leash, his harness... And I forgot the treat bag. I ran back into the house, yanked the refrigerator door open (where I store his leftover treats, as most of them need refrigeration unfortunately) and found a bare treat pouch. Like Mother Hubbard's cupboard it was.
Drat! Now, in addition to having no treats, I was going to be late for my meeting because I needed a high value treat to reinforce all of Schooner's good behavior I was looking forward to getting. I'm an eternal optimist.
I glanced in the pantry for something, anything, when I spied The Honest Kitchen's quickies. I've mentioned The Honest Kitchen before. They had, rather fortuitously, just sent me some of their new little training treats. I grabbed the little can, threw them into the car and off Schooner and I went to our meeting.
As I was walking into the building, I tossed the treats into my treat bag and kept right on walking, not missing a beat. Schooner's loose leash walking was quite impressive, so I clicked and treated him for such nice work. I grabbed a quickie, popped it in his mouth and went right on stepping it off. He came back for more! His loose leash walking turned suddenly into "right next to my leg, not leaving my side" walking. It was pretty cool.
Throughout the meeting, he got treated for settling quietly. This is an amazingly hard task for a social butterfly like Schooner. It's not like he blends into the woodwork and no one notices him for goodness sake. He's a very large, very speckled, extremely friendly dog. In a restaurant. Or in the grocery store checkout line. He draws a crowd. And settling is right up there with loose leash walking as far as must-have skills. So a high value reward is imperative, as we want him to repeat that lovely settling behavior.
I'm happy to report that the quickies did the trick for this picky dog. The quickies are simply Icelandic Haddock. That's it. Nothing else. Oh, and they come in the shape of a heart. Very cute. And they're delicious -- at least according to Schooner. And our cat. Who begs shamelessly whenever I carry the treat bag inside.
Oh, and the other nice thing. They don't need refrigeration, these quickies. No surprise stinky-car in the morning.
Your turn: have you found a delicious, easy, small treat that your dog adores? Please share in a comment below!
This post is entirely my opinion and I did not get paid to write this post about The Honest Kitchen. I received three quickie treat containers from The Honest Kitchen to try out for Schooner's training.