You know exactly what I'm talking about. There's a dog. Right there, right in front of you. On the bus. Or in a restaurant. Looking dashing and adorable in their service dog vest. The urge is there, you feel it. I feel it. We all feel it.
We want to pat that dog.
And not just pat him, either. A good belly rub or an ear tussle or mind meld of some sort. We want to talk to the human half of the team. We want in.
But we just can't, can we? Service dogs get their patting and love and playing and mind melding at other times and in other places. And their human team members almost certainly do not want us to interact with their dog, and may not even want to chat. So what's a dog-loving person to do, knowing that we simply can't reach out and snuggle? Here's a nice list, so go ahead and distract yourself.
One: Shop for your dog.
Open up your favourite shopping site and buy something for your own dog, stat. A new puzzle toy that they can work on (instead of getting boring old kibble in a bowl)? That sounds good. Or how about a tug toy, a stuffed animal, whatever your particular brand of dog prefers.
Two: Donate to your fave dog rescue.
Rescues always need funds, so pop a twenty dollar donation towards the rescue that strums your heartstrings. Most rescues can take donations online, so you don't even have to get out of your seat. Charity is delicious: you'll feel so good you'll forget all about those tussle-able ears.
Three: Start a Limerick Battle with your friends.
Limerick is the pinnacle of poetry, of course, so this edifying activity will pass the time and make you popular and brainy. Bonus points for limericks with puns.
Four: Sign up for a new dog training course.
There's nothing like taking a fun training course with your dog, so now is the time to dive in. If there's a good trainer in your area, check out their offerings. Take a tricks class, or basic obedience, or scent games...the sky is the limit. If your dog barks and explodes on leash, check out their Reactive Rover-type offerings. If you don't have access to a good trainer or your dog isn't suitable, online learning is a great option. Check out the wonderful Great Courses offering from Jean Donaldson, and the growing catalogue from my colleague Lori Nanan (including one that I teach!). There are even courses that can help your dog be retaurant-patio-ready...and when she's on the patio with you, you can certainly tussle her ears.
Five: Get your craft on.
If you're on a bus...is your bus route amenable to a stop at your local craft/fabric shop? If so, start things in motion for a craft night. Pick something entirely brainless on your streaming service and plan to make a snuffle mat for your dog. These mats are great fun for dogs to eat their kibble from, as they have to hunt through a tiny but dense fleece forest to find each morsel. The cutting and tying takes a while, so get ready to binge.
n.b.: a bottle of nice vino would be a suitable companion to craft night.
Six: Head to the library and get yourself to a book. About dogs.
If you need a good dog book recommendation, check out this book club and see what piques your interest. Then head to your library—in person or open the app—and see what's on offer. Stick a couple in your wish list just to be safe.
Seven: The sounds of science.
Did you know science is the best way to approach dog training? Understanding science will help you understand your dog, and help you deconstruct all the stuff that the internet throws at you about dogs. Open your podcast app and search for "scientific method", "evolution", "ethology", and "critical thinking".
Eight: Start a Sonnet Battle with your friends.
Sonnets are the pinnacle of poetry, of course, so this edifying activity will pass the time and make you popular and brainy. Points will be subtracted for sonnets with puns.
Nine: Pick a new treat recipe to try.
We need to motivate our dogs to change their behaviour, of course, and the easiest way to do this is with food. Baking treats can be a lovely and inexpensive way to get delicious treats with full control over ingredients, a bonus for dogs with allergies or who are picky. Check out my recipes page or open a search engine and see what suits your fancy. Use these treats when you bring your newly-patio-friendly dog to a dog-friendly restaurant.
Ten: Reinforce yourself.
Do you remember how you taught your dog to resist temptation, back in the mists of time in that obedience class you took...? It was with reinforcement. Maybe you taught her to "leave it", or you taught him to sit instead of jumping up. Or maybe you can ask your dog to wait at the door before dashing out. These behaviours were taught using reinforcement...you reinforced your dog for not acting upon their impulses! And since you yourself didn't act upon your impulse to just-one-scritchy-scratch-she's-so-cute that service dog, it's time for a back pat. Good job, dog lover. Good job.
Cover photo: The Found Animals Foundation, www.foundanimals.org; treats photo: Christik | © Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images; rope toy photo: Astrocady | © Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images