Yesterday I wrote about Cinder's recent progress regarding her reactivity-especially with new dogs. Today, we pushed the envelope a little more and experienced more success.
Cinder's becoming obsessed with swimming so I'm trying to be sure we incorporate other things into her day too. Some days we just won't go to the pond so she learns every day is not the same. To that end, I opted to take her to a public park with nice paths to walk. On the way, we had to drive by the public dog park. On a whim we drove in.
Previously, Cinder's visits to the public dog park were disasters. Her reactivity started when we pulled in and she saw other people or dogs. When I tried taking her into the park, she was so reactive I had to carry her out and leave because she just wouldn't quit barking and lunging at everyone and every dog - even from across the park! It was horrible for both of us.
Today, on a whim, I swung into the public dog park just to see how much progress we really are making. Right away, there was a city worker weed-eating the fence line along the fence immediate to the parking lot. Since I back in to park so I'm not letting my dogs out into the parking lot, but on the perimeter, it enabled Cinder to see the man immediately. NO reaction! Okay. I shut the car off and waited for her to look out and see the two dogs and other people before I even bothered opening my door. She had no reaction so I got out and went to the hatch and opened it, waiting for her to react. I have my dogs tethered to harnesses in the car so they can't just bound out when a door opens. She sat quietly, looking and watching. I figured it was worth trying to push the envelope a little more and try going into the park.
We unloaded and Cinder was angelic. We walked to the gate and a pleasant young man opened the first gate for us as he came through. Cinder went through and didn't attempt to go over or react. At the second gate, she sat perfectly as I unlatched and opened it. Again, she went through quiet and calmly.
As we walked farther into the area, she finally spotted both dogs and all the people, but only let out a couple "normal" sort of smallish yips. I immediately got her focus and talked to her, hoping she'd quit before it blew up into reactive behavior. Success! Cheese is a wonderful attention-getter sometimes!
I called over to the people with a Bull terrier puppy and asked if we could come meet their dog, explaining that Cinder may become obnoxious and if she did, I would simply remove her. They were quite nice and welcoming. Cinder made up with the people immediately and the puppy secondarily. There was a little tension in her stance and attitude, but I was able to talk to her and praise her and treat her through a NICE meeting of a new puppy. After a few minutes, I decided we'd try her off-leash and see if the two pups would play since the lady with the other dog left. Indeed, they were a little timid and awkward together at first so I finally decided to walk around the park and they ran ahead and raced and played their way ahead of me until we returned to the other pup's family. By that time, another couple and their adult dog had arrived and Cinder went to meet that dog. She was a bit timid and tense, but she went to the other dog and that dog was nice to her so she quickly became less tense. Soon the two began playing too. However, that dog's people wanted to play ball with their dog so at that point, I decided it was better to leave while things were going so well than risk Cinder becoming aggressive or possessive over a ball.
Since she did so well at the dog park meeting two new dogs, I decided she'd earned a trip to the pond for some swim time before returning home. Even though she didn't swim yesterday, she was fairly easily and quickly tired swimming so it was a short pond visit. I imagine she was a bit tired due to the stress from being at the public dog park, meeting two new dogs before swimming.
My hope is that as we work and test, Cinder continues to show improvement as she has been so far this week. I know she's not ready for meeting more than a couple dogs at a time without overloading her and maybe causing her to revert so we have to carefully pick and choose the situations in which to place her. However, I'm ever more hopeful that we will greatly improve if not overcome her reactivity. My hope is that we can progress far enough over this month to try a group puppy obedience class with others of her age. Until now, I was wondering if we could ever realistically hope for that, but now I know it IS possible if she continues to have successes like the ones of this week.
I'm going to credit having my friend's dog over all day on Sunday for jump-starting Cinder's improvement program and progress of this week. If not for that wonderfully well-behaved, patient and non-responsive dog being with Cinder on Sunday, providing no threat or resistence to Cinder's behaviors, I don't know that we would have had the successes we've had this week so far. A big thank you to my friend Becki and her dog Beanie for helping us jumpstart our progress! Enough single, small successes will hopefully yield the big prizes of Cinder being a good companion, able to go places and do things away from home without reactivity issues. That's our goal.
Thus ends this update for today. It's the end of another day of the lifelong endeavor raising Cinder.