Join Our Community of Dog Lovers!

Subscribe now so that you get email alerts about all new content and/or updates from Champion of My Heart!  +

FREE e-book "8 Things to Know About Veterinary Care"

December 2, 2011

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

Now that we’re many weeks into Lilly’s lowered chlomipramine dosage and without any xanax, we forged ahead.

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.

best dog blog, champion of my heart, border collie sitting on landscaping wall

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.

best dog blog, champion of my heart, border collie sitting in front of big chrismas decorations

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.

best dog blog, champion of my heart, border collie sitting near restaurant patio

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.

best dog blog, champion of my heart, border collie

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.

best dog blog, champion of my heart, border collie sitting in a restaurant patio chair

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.

best dog blog, champion of my heart, border collie inside a luggage store

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?


About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. Good job, getting to class! All in all, it sounds like it went really well for such a hectic setting after being away for so long. Way to go!

  2. Well, she didn’t crash to the ground in such manner that you needed to drag her or pick her up and carry her. Thus, it seems to me that she handled her anxiety much better than on previous outings. Her ears looked tense, but her mouth was tense only in the one photo. From your description, she didn’t seem to panic. She was nervous and anxious but not debilitatingly so. That seems to me to be a lot of progress.

  3. Yes, I have an 8 month old white shepherd. She is perfect in every way but she is so not into other dogs. She ignores them and has never played with any dog except my little Biewer Terrier. I’m told this is the nature of this breed. But, she loves people and is not dog aggressive. I live in Germany and we go to training class every week. She does very well, but can’t wait to get back home. PATIENCE! Glad I am not the only one out there!!

  4. As you know, Buster has a lot of anxiety as well. We’ve made a lot of progress, but I’m sure he would not have handled this busy mall as well as Lily did. I’ve begun to think that he might never be capable of this – and I’m okay with that. Along as we can navigate our daily lives without outbursts, I don’t really need to push his boundaries. Have I just lost my motivation or gotten lazy? Have you ever felt the same way about Lily?

  5. I just found your blog. Love it! Anxiety in some Border Collies must be one of those strange character flaws. My dog is 8 years old and we are still trying to figure out why she barks or is skittish with certain dogs or people and not others. No rhyme or reasoning to her brain. lol But she is a fantastic dog! Border Collies really keep you on your toes.

    I look forward to following Lilly’s training.

Comments are closed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}


Stay Tuned for Something New!

big things in the works ... promise

Success message!
Warning message!
Error message!