This means the foundation for task training is building a confident and stable dog who has had a long history of rich positive re-enforcement and has been taught to learn. They've seen and experienced many types of surfaces, sounds, smells and sights in their early months. They have also been introduced to many types of people and crowds. Even so, some of these young dog exit the programs having never seen someone in a full body suit or wearing a odd shaped costume.
When I started training Max I took him to a local Science Fiction Convention which, at that time, was held on the Gonzaga University campus. The concentration of people was in different buildings with access to large open areas outside that gave up many breaks from the crowds. Because of this, I could, at that time, take him for a majority of the day. He was, to say the least, tired by the time we headed home for our breaks at noon, dinner and then finally bed.
The greatest advantage of SpoCon is the number of full body costumes and other types of appearance changing outfits. For Max, the hardest thing to handle was the sounds of people walking by with belly dancing bells jingling. It took us three years to get him indifferent to them. This year, I had two more dogs to introduce to SpoCon.
I took Emma with me for pure socialization. With treat pouch packed with cheese, hot dog, Howies Turkey and chicken breast I took her with me to the hotel to pay for my membership and introduce her to various costumes.
She was able to meet people in chain mail, wearing crabs on their heads and many other types of strange outfits and took it all with a wiggling sense of joy.
What amazed me was when I saw a pen cap on the floor and my step-daughter pointed to it and Emma picked it up and handed to me. I had only just the day before broken through whatever block she had about retrieving and suddenly she was doing something I hadn't even prepped her for in a public forum with a crowd of people around her. She got five rapid fire treats for doing such a wonderful job.
We spent approximately 45 minutes visiting with people, meeting, sniffing and examining new costumes and just learning to refocus on her handler while in a distracting situation. Whenever I let someone say hi to her I offered her a treat, by the end of the 45 minutes she went to meet a friend of mine and after a quick "hi" she turned back to me. Mission accomplished.
With this as her final act I brought her back to my place and waited with her while she played in the yard to process the very exciting event she had just attended. She had been lit up, enjoying herself and showed no fear or worry, outside of a second or two with the multi-colored beard, but hadn't processed everything that had happened to her yet.
When I passed her off to her owners I told them to give her the weekend off and just let her work through the excitement of the convention and realize she did something amazing and it didn't kill her.
She's still going through a lot of emotional and mental changes as she moves into her second year of life, so there is not promise she'll be able to work full time in public venues yet, but she's showing the first signs that she has the foundation needed to succeed as long as we continue to make the trips into such settings positive.