HOLY SMOKES! We signed Reyna up for Therapy Dog classes with Melanie. Monday was our Orientation, which is normally without dogs, but Melanie also does boarding, so I brought Reyna to meet all the Loveline Goldens so we could be sure it would be a good fit if we ever needed to board there.
So let me give you a little background to the day...
I was at a conference last week, so poor Reyna didn't get out much, then over the weekend she stayed with our friend Elizabeth and her GSD Sam while we took the kids to watch the blue angels in Pensacola. We got back Sunday evening and then I had to work all day Monday of course. I came home and utter chaos ensued as we tried to get the kids ready to go to the sitter so I could take reyna to the class. I loaded all her stuff and her into the car, we dropped the kids off and booked it o Melanie's house.
Since we had the orientation to class first reyna had to sit in the car for an hour and a half. After the orientation was over Melanie brought one of her goldens out and as i went to bring Reyna out of the car I remembered I hadn't let her out to the bathroom in all the craziness of departure...crap...well this was going to suck...it was dark, she'd been cooped p this whole time with no exercise today, we were in a strange place with a strange dog, and she is ALWAYS more reactive when she has to potty...fun.
I let her out of the car, on leash and immediately asked her to potty before she noticed the dog. Fortunately we have been working a lot on going on cue in new locations, so she went right away...one variable down.
I was armed with chicken and as Melanie and I walked our dogs increasingly closer together and further away I marked and rewarded any looks at the dog and reorientation. Or walking toward the dog but turning back to me before she reached the end of the leash. Before I knew it they were doing drive by sniffing and then a couple more prolonged interactions. All without a single bark. Of course if I noticed Reyna starting to key in too much we would move away and start the approach over.
Melanie said that this was her most calm dog and we had like five others each getting progressively more difficult, concluding in a reactive dog of Melanie's.
The next dog to come out was another laid back female and we had no problems at all...same protocol, mark and reward any notice/reorient or any voluntarily moving away from the dog to focus on me. This time we walked with the dogs side by side for just seconds at a time. No problems.
After that we met Hobby, a big beautiful male who was very interested in Reyna. She got pretty playful, but calling her name or walking the other way would get her attention back. The goal throughout all of this was for the dogs to meet and sniff some, but then catalog the dog as part of the background and not something to get stressed or excited about.
The next challenge was a puppy named Hannah who was an absolute doll, and oh so playful! Same rules and rewards and both dogs did awesome...Reyna cried a bit when she left, she loves puppies, but quickly redirected.
The final dog we met was Melanie's reactive toy drive dog Biba, hmmm sounds familiar...
I was prepared for a challenge, but the dogs barely paid attention to each other. They passed head on in heel position inches from eachother. Performed simple obedience behaviors, and Reyna even held a voluntary sit/stay while Biba blasted after a ball Melanie threw. Let me repeat that...Reyna...Reyna sat down in heel next to me in the presence of another dog with no cue from me, and remained seated when Melanie threw a tennis ball across the yard and Biba shot after it. In fact, not only did she hold her sit, when Biba took off Reyna flipped her head toward Biba and then right back to me...she just played Look At That with a dog chasing a ball! HOLY SMOKES!!!! What the heck did I just witness!?!?
I could not believe it as I headed home that night. Reyna met five dogs she has never seen before in a place she has never been before, on leash, with food as a reward, and never once even puffed her hair up. I can NOT believe how far we have come. December will mark two years since we started on this journey with a highly reactive crazy dog and a book called Control Unleashed. Unbelievable.