By Maureen Kleckner
Ever wonder what it is like to navigate a busy mall with a service dog? Foot traffic, strollers, tight aisles, and curious bystanders are all part of the challenges our graduates face. Several graduate teams showed us how it’s done this past weekend.
It’s Saturday at Southdale Mall…time for spring shopping, and the stores are vivid with color…bright yellows and pinks…and occasionally a shot of blue – the dog in the blue coat. Ten Helping Paws graduate teams are taking the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) Public Access Test today under the direction of Helping Paws staff.
The purpose of the Public Access Test is “to ensure that dogs that have public access are stable, well-behaved, and unobtrusive to the public. It is to ensure that the client has control over the dog, and the team is not a public hazard.” (ADI) Helping Paws graduate teams take this test 6 months after team training, and twice more – when the dog is 5 years old and again at 10 years of age. When the team successfully completes the test the first time, ownership of the dog is transferred from Helping Paws to the graduate.
The test begins with the team exiting their vehicle safely, and traversing the busy parking lot. Sam and Maddy pause a moment in the sunshine after leaving the van.
The team must navigate safely from the vehicle to the mall entrance, passing another dog on leash calmly.
Angie and Dozer travel the sidewalk in tandem.
The teams demonstrate several skills as a part of the test, including Sit/Stay, Drop/Stay, and retrieving. For many of the graduates, having their dogs able to retrieve dropped items in spite of multiple distractions is vital.
Stetson and Duke retrieve for their partners Ethan and Steve.
Watson maintains a Drop/Stay for Richard. The dogs are taught early on to maintain eye contact with their human partners, as Watson is doing here.
Shelly and Cassie demonstrate Sit/Stay in the crowded open area of the mall.
The service dogs must be able to greet people, adults and children alike, in a polite fashion. It is always much appreciated by the graduates when people ask and receive permission before greeting a working dog. Volunteers play the roles of adult and child greeters.
Dozer and Rocky each allow a child to pet them.
Safe loading back into the vehicle ends the test, as Maddy shows here.
And we’re off!
Angie and Dozer
Congratulations to the following teams who recently passed their ADI public access tests:
Teams with dogs at 10 years of age: Angie and Dozer; Corbett and Rocky; Sam and Maddy; Melissa and Luna
Teams with dogs at 5 years of age: Steve and Duke; Ethan and Stetson; Shelly and Cassie; Karen and Addy
First time test-takers: Richard and Watson; Andrea and Tate; Jane and Terra (demo dog team)
Smiles from Corbett and Rocky and Jane and Terra after successful completions!