For years, at least seven, I have been sending our clients to walk and socialize in our local hardware stores. The employees love it, our clients have loved it, and it seems to have been a win win. People bring their dogs into a store for kind and considerate socialization, they do some shopping, and then leave. We have even held classes in these stores.
Yes I am the trainer who calls stores at 7am to check store policy, I usually catch a new manager off guard, they scramble for a bit to find out what is and what is not OK, and then almost always we have received a yes.
It is safe to say that in our area, even though we have leash laws, the dog community operates off leash, sometimes responsibly, most of the time irresponsibly. The only managed places, truly managed, are our local hardware stores. All dogs on leash. We have five to choose from, big box chains to locally owned. This has been a bonus for puppies, fearful dogs, shy dogs, and dogs needing this type of management in order to be successful.
Our smaller locally owned stores have had irresponsible dog owners in and out, and most have a sign in front, ‘Please come shop with YOUR DOG ON LEASH’, and there is almost always a free slip lead available if you don’t have one. Awesome!
This past winter one of our clients took her dog shopping at Lowe’s. This dog was a smart and spunky thing, and was very successful as long as other dogs did not charge at her face. Fair enough, I don’t like things charging at my face either. This eliminated parks, dog parks, trails, and neighborhoods, none of them are managed in our area. The only managed areas have been our ‘dog friendly stores’ where dogs are on leash.
Her dog was sitting politely at the check out register, she was paying, items being put into a bag, and then, in thru the out door romps an off leash dog that ran right over and jumped on this dog that was sitting politely. They scrapped, and believe it or not, my client was made out to be the ‘inappropriate’ person/dog owner in this scenario. Not the off leash dog owner, who not only didn’t apologize, but walked away to go shopping with his dog still off leash. The person at the register proceeded to tell my client that her dog wasn’t very friendly and shouldn’t be in the store, and all the while, this sweet spunky dog was made to feel like a criminal, while doing everything right. How seriously messed up is that?
AND IT HAPPENS ALL OF THE TIME.
My client was upset, rightfully so. Such great progress had been made to find a manged environment, and now that was not even safe enough.
So I called Lowe’s, or local store. After being transferred about four times I finally had someone on the line who took a managerial tone with me, this would just have to do, whether they were or not.
I was told that Lowe’s only allows service dogs. My jaw dropped and I almost started to fall off my chair, laughing. When I explained that our group puppy classes had been in their store for years, and all of our clients who shopped their regularly, and my dogs who have grown up in this store, they said that has always been their policy. When I asked how they justified off leash dogs in their store, the reply was that if they passed the sign that said ‘service dogs only’, then their dog must be a service dog. This time I did laugh out loud.
I tried to explain that ALL stores and places of business had to allow service dogs, there was no answer. When I explained that a real service dog would be identified with a vest, collar, and leash so there was no confusion, and FOR SURE they would not be off leash, there was no answer. When I explained that my clients dog was jumped by an off leash dog in their store, there was no answer. I asked why there was no sign, large sign, in their front window stating, NO OFF LEASH DOGS, the answer was that they had no way to monitor that. Oh My God!
Well two weeks ago there was an incidence in another Lowe’s store involving an off leash Rottweiler, another dog on leash, and a child. It didn’t go well for anyone, especially the child. This was so sad and so very preventable. Irresponsible and off leash in a public store screams EGO to me, and this time a child paid the price.
This story came up in our class last night, so I called Lowe’s at 7am, and asked again what their policy was. I received the exact same answer as I did this past winter, there must be a ‘policy sheet’ above the phone. When I asked if there was a link to their ‘pet policy’ for their store, because I couldn’t find one, they said “oh we don’t post it on line, but I can print you out a copy”.
There are a catrillion ‘I hate pets in stores’ articles on line. People who are fed up with dogs in stores, off leash dogs in stores, dogs lunging at their children in stores, dirty dogs with fleas in stores, etc.
There is a huge difference between responsible and irresponsible dog ownership. Off leash in stores and public places is irresponsible, period. Managing your dog, kindly and considerately socializing in your space, and on leash in public is responsible.
Once again, irresponsible and off leash has lead to another venue/opportunity being closed to those who really benefit from it. And really those who have earned it through their efforts to be responsible.
So the next time you hear me say, ‘put a leash on your dog’, it isn’t to be unfair to your dog, in fact all of my dogs love when the leash comes out, it is to be fair to those around you and to show the world that you care enough.
As for Lowe’s, your wishy washy way of having a policy is lame, I just can’t wrap my head around how you have allowed dogs in your store for years, and ‘assumed’ they were all service dogs?
Love your dog, train your dog, train yourself to be better at management, and please be responsible. That is the complete package, and in my opinion, totally worth it!