I must admit I'm a fan of PetSmart. True, they're overpriced, but Presto! is my fifth competition obedience dog who has received part of his training (largely sits and downs and heeling) inside a PetSmart store. The management has always been friendly, helpful and tolerant.
So one day last week, at 9:15 in the morning, Presto! entered a PetSmart store for the first time. They open at 9:00 and I figured we'd dip our toes in the water when the store wasn't very crowded. We'll enrich Presto!'s experience gradually over the coming months.
We traveled light on our first visit. I had my dog, a few treats, a four-foot leash and a 2x3' mat with a rubberized, non-skid back. PetSmart's floor is polished concrete (the better to clean up you know what). Put a dog on a long sit on that surface and you can watch the hind legs slide out, out, out. So we go prepared.
I kept it simple for our first foray. Later I'll carry a bag with a 30-foot long line and two signs in stand-up clear plastic holders. The signs, to be placed in front and back of Presto!, say: Please Don't Pet Me. I'm Practicing Obedience.
Not that the signs will stop Brunhilde from lumbering over so that Tootsie, her 100-pound rottweiler, can "meet" my puppy (and thereby risk excision of her dog's Adam's apple.), but they do tend to keep most of the knuckleheads at bay.
Like everything else in Presto!'s training, his sits and downs practice at PetSmart will proceed in modest increments. Ultimately I'll be 30 feet away at the end of the long line. Then I'll drop the line. And then I'll start incremental out-of-sight segments.
Once I've built the store managements confidence -- to say nothing of my own -- I may eliminate the long line. We'll see. (That blog post will by titled "Stark Naked In PetSmart").
All this is taking place smack-dab in the center of the store, right where several main aisles intersect. The neat thing is that about 30 feet away from the sitting dog is the area where they have parakets and other exotic birds for sale. I can duck behind several rows of those cages. Then, looking through the cages, I'll have an unobstructed view of Presto!, but he won't be able to see me. What could be more perfect for practicing out-of-sight sits and downs?
By the way, all of this takes place with me between the dog and the front door. A hair-raising chase inside (and almost outside) The Home Depot a few years ago infused me with instant enlightenment.
Our first little PetSmart adventure last week was a piece of cake. I was at the end of a four-foot leash for a four-minute sit and a six-minute down. A few people passed, oohed and aahed, and Presto!'s head was on a swivel but he didn't budge.
Later, when I have him in there with heavy traffic and maybe a forklift stocking high shelves one aisle over, it'll be more of a test.
For now, though, our PetSmart Phase is underway. Tomorrow morning we'll add in a little heeling.