My silly schedule in 2011 precluded Lilly going to dog training classes with our dog trainer in Boulder, Gigi Moss. Since I took last week “off” for Thanksgiving, we finally had time to attend a level-2, drop-in class. Alas, it was at a busy outdoor mall the day before Thanksgiving. Lilly had a little trouble. These photos tell the story of her comfort and her worry.
As an in-town location for Lilly, the 29th Street Mall in Boulder poses many challenges:
- Lots of car and bus traffic through the middle pavillion
- “Tunnels” between banks of shops that look like black holes to Lilly with backlit people approaching
- Echoes from pedestrians and car traffic
- An upper level, where people and noises can cascade down
- A parking garage that amplifies sounds, especially barking dogs
Sometimes, Lilly did great. She worked. She responded. She smiled. Other times, she went into full-blow worry mode:
- Laying flat to the ground and refusing to move
- Barking at passing people
- Having nervous kissing fits all over my head
- Having a hard time responding to simple cues (like sit or watch me)
Gigi notice that Lilly warmed up much faster after worry episodes. It isn’t that she worried less, but she didn’t worry as long.
The best news, however, is that Lilly did NOT give stink-eye or growl at any of the other dogs.
This is Lilly sitting on a landscaping wall, watching fellow classmates arrive. Notice the ear position, the tightness in her mouth, and the furrowed look in her eyes.
I used these big Christmas decorations as blocking devices so that Lilly had space between her and the other dogs. Still, she scanned the area for pedestrian and car traffic. The PPPSSSHHHTTT noise from the buses was NOT her favorite sound.
After a barking dog in the parking garage made Lilly panic, we sped our way back upstairs to the open pavilion and played POKE (nose target) with some traffic cones. Then, we used a patio railing with a banner to block Lilly’s view of the other dogs. At least her mouth is more relaxed, but the ears hint at her concern.
Here the tail position (tucked) tells most of the story, but it’s important to note that Lilly often functions quite well, even when her tail is less than loose.
Lilly had a hard time walking down the mall pass-through that led to this restaurant patio area, but she entertained the workers inside by posing in this chair. She started to feel more comfortable about 1/2 way through class.
Lilly’s last big challenge came when the class went inside a luggage store that allows dogs. We stayed outside, kissing and cuddling on a picnic bench for a while before venturing inside for just a minute or so. Lilly sat in my lap on the bench, while I made up lyrics and sang about her to the holiday music playing overhead.
Once inside the store, Lilly did a perfect down-stay, before we made our exit first, leaving classmates behind.
In order to make our way down the plaza, I asked Lilly to do what Gigi calls “urban agility,” using landscaping walls, benches, and other obstacles as a distraction.
Lilly found that easier than dodging shoppers, including small kids, strollers, and swinging shopping bags on the sidewalks.
Do you see anything of note in these pictures, fellow students of canine body language?