Maybelle does not like it when she can’t go running up to every dog she meets. When I first got her and we encountered a dog walking down the opposite side of the road she’d want to pull me across the street. Trying to teach her to be calm was fruitless. Instead she just got worse. She started barking at dogs, lunging, and generally acting like a lunatic. It’s hard to explain to strangers that she’s not mean, she just a control freak who is frustrated by not being able to go running up to every dog she sees in order to sniff its butt.
So today we finally headed off to a class designed to tackle the tougher issues many dog owners face. Basic obedience is great for learning the proper way to use positive reinforcement and get the foundations you need, but unless you’re a super-genius you probably don’t come away from it knowing how to deal with a dog that goes ballistic every time it doesn’t get to go running up to a new dog. And the real problem is, most people don’t have the patience to help you practice, because it takes a long time to patiently reward good, calm behavior. So I started looking for a program that wasn’t just going to teach me more commands, but was going to let me practice the things we really needed to practice…and we seem to have found it.
We headed out to a park today, where this class meets. There’s kids playing soccer, and bugs to chase, and squirrels, and most importantly…dogs who aren’t in the class. Before class began the trainers got to see a level 10 freakout when some genius with a German Shepherd just kept walking directly toward us, no matter how I tried to walk away, or how much May freaked out. (Thanks, dude, super cool of you.)
But at least it helped them get to see the worst of it.
Class was great, not only because it was a beautiful September day, but because it basically just consisted of walking around the park, getting as close to the other dogs as we could without a meltdown, and distracting her when she started to lock on to the other dogs. We do this all the time on our walks, but that’s more about just moving past a barking dog. By the end of class May and I were sitting in the grass about 10 feet away from another dog while she rolled over and I rubbed her belly.
And she had a very full belly. Next week, I’ve been told we’ll have a couple more new dogs in class, which is also great, because if there’s one thing I know about my dog, it’s that once she gets used to another dog she barely pays any attention to it. So newcomers will test her skills.