This afternoon I took Gozer to Ren's, a local pet store. She likes going there because she can sniff lots of things she's not allowed to have - like rawhide and beef pizzles - and smell all the different kinds of food they carry. Sometimes she gets to meet other dogs there, and she also usually gets treats from the people who work there. In the spring and fall we can walk there (it's about 45mins each way so we don't do the walk when it's too hot or cold) but I needed to buy birdseed and there's snow and mud on the ground.
Things didn't go well the last time we were there. There had been a dog who was unhappy and making sad noises, which bothered her, and then she was surprised by a big dog coming in. She ended up peeing on the floor. I felt really bad because I had seen that she wasn't happy but I was trying to get my shopping done and so I kept her in there too long. At the first sign of distress - that time, lowering herself and moving much more carefully as well as showing the whites of her eyes - I should have taken her out of the store but I was more focused on me than her. That was a mistake, and I decided that I would do things differently the next time because I don't want Gozer to be so upset that she pees on the floor.
This time, we went in the afternoon because I knew that it wouldn't be busy. Before we went in, I decided that I wouldn't try and do my shopping while she was with me; instead, I would watch her and at the first sign of distress, I would put her in the car and go back and get the bird seed that I was there to buy. I wasn't sure what signs to look for, exactly, but I decided that if her behaviour changed at all that she would leave.
This plan worked really well. She happily sniffed around the whole store twice, getting two treats in the process, when all of a sudden she started panting. I know that she pants when she's nervous or upset so I took her out and put her back in the car. Another owner said that his German shepherd wanted to meet Gozer but since Gozer doesn't normally like big dogs and she was exhibiting signs of stress, I nixed that meeting. When we got home, we had snuggles in front of the tv and she seemed happy.
A note about treats there: I know she's not supposed to eat pretty much anything but I figure that a couple of small treats won't be that bad and they make her visit much more pleasurable. I want her to associate Ren's with happiness and treats are part of that. Besides, Gozer knows that she gets treats from each and every cashier; in the past, she's barked at the one cashier out of three who hadn't given her a treat. It's pretty funny to watch.