We joined the Custom Canines group for a training session at East Towne Mall in Madison last evening. It was Hawk's first group training experience. All the other service dogs in training are older than Hawk. He is the only puppy, so his entrance prompted all of the dogs to break their downs, and aside from his nap while Keelin was talking (I am sure she did not take this personally), his job was to be a distraction, although he tried his best to keep focus on me and was able to practice his downs and walking on leash; he already knows Sit. Since he is a puppy and on a potty training routine, that meant as soon as he woke up and when he started sniffing around, it was time for a trip outside.
There are so many distractions in a new setting, but especially so around the mall. While we were out trying to convince Hawk to potty, there seemed to be an argument heating up between a young man and a woman, which escalated when another man pulled up in a car and the young man got in. He was demanding the woman get in his car at that point and the only thing she was saying was "I want my phone back, please give me my phone," and both men were literally yelling at her to just get in the car with much more colorful language. No one else around even blinked an eye at this interaction. I remained where I was with Hawk and made no secret that I was watching the whole thing, seemingly completely unnoticed by the men even though we were right next to the sidewalk where the car was. At this point I asked the woman if she was alright and if there was someone she wanted us to call (as in the police). Her only reply to me was that she was "escaping". At this point, a phone came flying out of the car onto the sidewalk and when the woman went to get it, the men drove off as she headed back into the mall. As sensitive as Hawk is to loud noises, he was not the least phazed by this whole encounter. On our way back in, I said to the woman that it was incredibly brave of her not to get into that car, and she rolled her eyes. Not quite sure how to take that, but at that point I felt like we had done the right thing and were prepared to call the police if things went any further, and whether she was appreciative or not really did not matter.
The other dogs practiced the escalator, which takes some confidence and preparedness on the trainers' part. All dogs seemed to do well with this. Hawk will not even attempt this before he is 6 months old and we prefer to have booties so the dog's toes and nails are not quite so vulnerable to the mechanism of the moving stairs. Hawk's whole reason for attending training was to be exposed to another environment, be around other dogs calmly and meet some new people. We think he did very well.
Like all the puppies before him, we just need to determine the best way to train him and what will work and what will not. He is still determined to test us, but I do see him allowing some cuddling and affection more than initially, which means he is trusting us more. So, we are progressing in some areas and kind of plateauing in others. We just count the days until he turns 12 weeks old because it seems between 12-16 weeks, they become little sponges ready to soak up all new things. He will turn 12 weeks this Saturday. Yippeee!