Fido’s Farmers’ Market Primer Vol. 1 by Mel Bussey, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant

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The Oxford Farmers’ Market is a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning. The smells of the fresh produce, fragrant soaps, and dried herbs . . . the eye-pleasing array of colorful fruits and vegetables . . . the decadent pastries . . . the socializing . . . all make it something worth getting up early for. But humans aren’t the only fans of the Farmers’ Market -- many dogs enjoy the outing as much as the people do!

How do you know if your dog is a good candidate to take to the market?

Dogs who are well-behaved, confident, and friendly with other dogs and people – both adults and children – are a joy to have at the market. If your dog is friendly, but unruly and out of control, it will create an unpleasant day for both you and other people at the market. If your dog is aggressive or reactive, or even just shy and scared, the experience is likely to be a negative one for him. It may also be a scary (or even unsafe) experience for other dogs and market-goers. If your dog is worried about strangers, other dogs, or new situations in general, the market is not the place to attempt to resolve those issues. Not only can it put others at risk, but the intensity level of the market and the close proximity of other dogs and people can actually make your dog’s behavior worse, not better, over time. A professional dog trainer can help you work through these issues.

Even if your dog looooves other dogs, don’t assume that all other dogs have similar inclinations. Some dogs are well-mannered, but don’t really enjoy canine interactions. Always ask before allowing your dog to approach other dogs – and respect owners’ wishes if they decline the opportunity. (Do the same for meeting people – don’t allow your dog to put his uninvited nose into either dogs’ or humans’ nether regions!)

By the same token, if you don’t know another dog at the market, please keep a reasonable distance (at least several feet) when passing – don’t let your dog “get in a sniff” as he passes. (This is one of the many reasons to use a regular, non-retractable leash at the market – so you can control your dog’s actions.) It’s all about respecting the space of others, both human and canine.

If your dog ‘invades’ another’s space uninvited, and the other dog snarks at him (i.e. barks but doesn’t bite), don’t make the mistake of faulting the other dog – that’s a normal canine reaction to being inappropriately approached. (Think about this . . . if you are in an empty elevator, and someone you don’t know gets on and stands right next to you, or even puts an arm around you, you’re probably going to tell him to knock it off. Imagine if the stranger then tried to fault *you* for being too unfriendly!) Again, just because your dog loves to interact with other dogs doesn’t mean that that’s the way all dogs are or should be. All dogs are individuals, and like people, some are more gregarious and outgoing than others.

Finally, ensure your dog doesn’t sniff, lick, or try to eat any of the vendors’ merchandise. They tend not to like that . Don’t allow your dog to enter a vendor’s booth (unless they expressly permit it), and certainly don’t let her jump up on the table (or the vendor!)

Do:
- Bring your well-socialized, friendly, trained dog to enjoy the market with you
- Ask the other dog owner if it’s OK for your dogs to meet *before* you let them get close
- Keep a distance (minimum of 3-4’ whenever possible) between your dog and dogs he doesn’t know
- Walk your dog around a bit outside of the market before you enter so your dog has a chance to use the “facilities”
- Bring treats with you so you can reward your dog for good behavior
- Bring baggies with you in case you need to clean up after your dog
- Keep your dog on a standard 5 – 6’ leash (not a retractable one)
- Take your dog home if she is too stressed by all of the activity at the market

Don’t:
- Bring an aggressive or reactive dog
- Bring a very shy and/or scared dog
- Bring a dog you can’t keep under control
- Assume all other dogs are friendly
- Let your dog rush up to other dogs he doesn’t know without asking the other dog’s owner if they can meet. The other dog may not enjoy meeting new dogs.
- Take it personally if the other person says “no, thank you” to an offer to let the dogs meet.
- Bring your dog on a retractable leash
- Let your dog sniff, lick, or otherwise interact with the merchandise
- Let your dog walk into a vendor’s booth without express permission

In short, if you can teach Fido to respect the property and space of other dogs and humans, and to remain calm and well-behaved even when distracted by the cornucopia of great smells at the market, he can be a fantastic shopping companion.

In future articles, we will talk about dog-children cautions, learning to read canine body language, and what helpful behaviors to train your dog to do so he is a better-behaved market-goer . . . so stay tuned!

Sincerely,

:-) Mel Bussey, CPDT, CDBC
Training Tracks Canine Learning Station
* Oxford Area: 115 Main Street, College Corner, OH 45003, 513-523-WOOF (9663)
* West Chester: 9235 Cinti-Cols Road (Route 42), 45069, 513-779-STAY (7829)
Unleashing the potential of dogs and their people
Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, IAABC Member #424
Association of Pet Dog Trainers #2437P
Member, APDT Board of Directors
Board Advisor, APDT Member Relations & Communication Committee
AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator #4438