For all of us the last two years of the pandemic and related lockdowns has kept us at home with very limited access to the outside world. The few essential outings that assistance dogs teams have taken during this time in a lot of cases has not been enough to keep us at peak performance. As we start to venture out again most of us, me included, have to do some refresher training. During lockdown our public access skills have gotten a bit rusty. This is not a reflection on any individual team, this is a shared experience that we as a community are facing. If you see a team out in the coming months give them a little grace while we work to brush up both our skills as handlers and our dogs public access manners.
If you are a handler who is nervous about going out again with your assistance animal and you need to do some brushing up a few tips to help make it a bit smoother include:
- Keep your first few outings short.
- If your nervous do a few pet friendly trips first – that will relieve the pressure to be “perfect” right away.
- Before going in to more distracting/difficult situations do a few rapid drills of your basics to help get your dog in “work mode”.
But most of all, remember we are living through unprecedented times and it has impacted us all in ways we could never have imagined. Just as I ask you to give a little grace if you see another team, give yourself that same grace. After a few outings you will be back to normal