One of these days, I’d like to attend one of these pet festivals and be able to enjoy browsing through the vendor tents, checking out the rescues, and watching the various dog demos. For now, however, that’s a pipe dream. 😉 Instead, I utilize these events as a great training session for Risa. After stressing her out at the last AKC rally trial, I wanted to have an opportunity to work with her in a similarly crazy, busy setting where there was no pressure to perform. Canine gatherings like this are perfect for training sessions.
We attended this festival last year but it has grown in size! It was quite crowded and almost impossible to avoid being in close proximity to other dogs. Risa, however, was a star. I was armed with a food tube full of beef baby food to help her navigate her way through the crowds. There were several dogs who looked at her, tried to initiate a face-to-face greeting, or sniffed her from behind as we passed. Risa just turned her head away and tried to increase her distance from these dogs instead of having a reactive meltdown. I was so proud!
When we made it to the large, open area in the center of the event, I asked her for some heelwork as well as several other fun behaviors. With the exception of backwards circles (which I would have been surprised if she had done them), she was spot on. While we were there, she did have a minor snark at a passing Chow but that was the worst I saw out of her. I’ll take it!
As the contents of my food tube started to dwindle, we navigated back through the crowd to the outskirts of the tents near the entrance. I wanted to work with Risa a bit more on some behaviors but she was hot and decided to lie down. I agreed with her and decided there was no point in forcing her to move. Instead, I rewarded her relaxed behavior! I was able to cue her to ‘play dead’ which is one of the ways I judge her comfort level. If she’s too stressed out, she won’t do it. No problems today; she even held it for a while as she munched on grass. 😉 Even though I didn’t cue the down or ask her to stay, I heavily rewarded her for not breaking position. She barely moved even when passed by pedestrians walking through, a couple dogs, and a man pushing a stroller less than a foot from her. Way to go Mutt-Mutt!
Overall, I would say today was a great success. She was operant in the craziness and fairly focused despite everything that was going on. I think she had a pretty positive experience which makes me very happy. I may not have been able to browse and enjoy the festival like most of the patrons but I certainly did enjoy the outing with my dog! She’s amazing.