Acclimating Puppies to an Urban Environment
“The first thing is always to keep your puppy in mind when taking them into an urban environment,” says Leader Dog Puppy Raiser Frank Grzesik. “You need to watch that it doesn’t have sensory overload. Some dogs need to be acclimated in doses while others just take all the ‘big city busy’ in stride.”
Luckily for puppy raisers in the Chicago metropolitan area, they have Puppy Counselors Frank and Erin Grzesik to help them introduce their Future Leader Dogs to the Windy City. By planning group outings in high traffic environments such as the Shedd Aquarium and O’Hare International Airport, the Grzesiks assist raisers while also raising their 11th puppy, Future Leader Dog Bowie, a German shepherd.
“We try to do outings at Shedd once a year. We’ve even had raisers travel from Michigan to join us,” says Frank. “The dolphin show is a big draw, but it seems more for we humans because the dogs don’t show much interest during the program.” However, when walking through the tank areas of the aquarium, the puppies are often intrigued by the fish and want to sniff the tanks. Shedd is also great for distraction training, with kids dropping popcorn on the floor, raisers are taught how to curb their puppy’s “appetite” for grabbing things off the floor.
Simulated plane travel is made available for puppy outings at O’Hare International Airport due to the great relationship Frank has with American Airlines. Raisers and puppies are able to board a plane, the doors are then closed, the cabin is pressurized and the plane is taxied back and forth in the gate area during the simulation. This, along with going through security and walking through the terminal, are great experiences for the puppies.
If you come across a Future Leader Dog wearing a blue bandana, whether in Chicago on in your own neighborhood, help the raiser teach it good manners. Approach slowly to help keep the puppy calm, try to keep eye contact with the raiser and always ask before petting.