Today there was another pet festival. We have attended this particular one three times. Like all the others we attend, my focus is on working Risa around distractions and helping her become more and more comfortable. It’s the closest I can get to trial-like conditions with noise, food, dogs, and people. Not to mention the occasional livestock!
Risa was outstanding at the canine carnival earlier this year. But nowhere near as awesome as she was today. She didn’t even have a single moment where she was considering being reactive. There was one moment where I thought she might but, instead, she simply wanted to sniff that dog as it passed!
We walked around the perimeter a couple times to let Risa get acclimated to the location. Then I found several different ‘quiet’ spots where we could do some work. I click/treated her for looking at dogs and looking back at me. We practiced some rally moves (in anticipation of the upcoming trial) and did some random fun tricks too. I did have difficulty getting and keeping her focus. She preferred to look around or sniff for goodies in the grass. Lack of focus is expected though it is something that still frustrates me a bit.
While we were chilling in one of the relatively dog-free zones, I spent some time doing fun freestyle tricks with Risa. She did several spins, some sitting pretty, and scoots (turning around and moving backwards between my legs). As we did a bit of showing off, a photographer was clicking away taking photos of Risa. She came over to talk to us for a while afterward. Risa was extremely outgoing and walked right up to the photographer and allowed herself to be petted. Even on top of her head! Who is this dog? Where’s my shy girlie? She was also approached by a young man who, upon hearing that she is shy, didn’t even attempt to pet Risa. He just stood there while she sniffed him! Risa also reached out to sniff a little girl who approached me. . .which was huge as Risa is terrified of kids!
At one point, I was working with Risa on eye contact. She was seated 1-2 feet in front of me with her eyes locked on mine. I knew two dogs were passing behind us so I watched Risa for behavior I could click and reward. As I waited to click for eye contact duration, I felt a wet nose graze the back of my ankle. Risa appeared to not have noticed the close proximity of that dog at all. I click/treated her and praised her immensely. That was HUGE. Risa is usually quite possessive of me. The fact that she did nothing. . .not even a glance at the dog, is outstanding.
After all of that, I walked Risa through the canine gauntlet (the walkway that was flanked on both sides by vendors with many dogs and handlers gathered around) twice. I clicked and treated her for attention on me which she willingly gave the entire time. Despite all the dogs in close proximity, she maintained focus on me. I was astounded.
We were there for at least an hour. There were dogs of all shapes and sizes. Risa even investigated two goats and two horses from afar. She showcased some tricks. She made some friends. She was a perfect canine citizen. I couldn’t be prouder.