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June 19, 2009

I managed to crank out a LOT of work earlier this week, which means everything sat on others’ desks come Wednesday. I do have a few revisions and new things pending, but I’m waiting on input from clients and sources. Wednesday was the first real sort-of-summer-like day we’ve had in a while, so Lilly and I loaded up and went to class. Here’s how it went.

Lilly got to meet Lucky Sullivan, a rescued Brittany Spaniel, who is the new little brother to our red-bandana-wearing friend Pete (a springer). Pete and Lillly do great together because both know the other is NOT going to engage. They happily share space without any interaction at all.

Lucky barks a little when he gets excited by other dogs, but he cues into the dog energy around him. So, because Lilly was calm, so was he. So much so that Lilly snuck up behind him for a quick sniff. He handled it fine, so did she, but I still called her off after a few seconds. It’s so rare that Lilly shows interest in other dogs that it catches me by surprise.

Once Lucky got riled up by a new classmate (a young cocker) he was face to face with through the fence, Lilly thought barking and pulling sounded fun too, so I turned and walked her away until she settled down, which took just a few paces, then she was fine. It was more of wanting to be the FUN POLICE and control the situation than a fear response, I’d say.

That was her only quasi-outburst.

Otherwise, she was pretty calm, relaxed, and attentive. She was SLOW again, which is a stress thing. There was only ONE dog we know at this class — KB’s chocolate lab K. Otherwise, it was a large group of relatively young dogs.

Being around that many unknown dogs is enough of a challenge to spur the most lollygagging leash walking I’ve seen from Lilly in a LONG time. Throw in the fact that there were:

  • Tennis classes going on (pop-thwack, pop-thwack)
  • Kids on the playground (squeak-shriek)
  • Large groups of summer daycamp kids in boats on the lake, tromping by on their way to lunch, etc.
  • A bus dropping off people
  • Planes flying overhead

And, it’s no wonder she was moving a little slow. But, Lilly did not shut down. She did not fall into her HELL-NO down. She was just slow.

At least, that’s my assumption — that Lilly was responding to the quantity of stimuli, but Gigi was talking to us about variable value treats and how they can increase enthusiasm and speed in a dog’s work. AND, I admit. I’ve been lazy lately with everything else and have mostly used Lilly’s regular kibble as training food. Bad mommy!

SO, next time we make it to class, I’ll try to cook up some chicken, bring some cheese, and load up on some dried lamb lung (if you have a good / safe online source for buying that in bulk … let me know).

The goal, as always, is to see more of this smiling face, no matter what’s going on around her.

at class 1

On hot days, all of us grab what shade there is. Lilly is looking right at the other dogs and the kids on the playground and seems completely fine here … thanks to the distance.

Once when I trotted Lilly over to the pond for a quick dip, one of the new dogs (who it turns out has virtually no training) was hot on her trail. Since Gigi gave her little talk about what the red bananas mean to the new people with younger dogs, I didn’t really pitch a fit when this dog first came up. I just moved Lilly further down. When the dog still followed at close range, I kept walking. When it was clear the handler wasn’t going to intervene, Lilly and I looped around a park bench and headed the other way.

I did finally get her safely to the water, but she was too freaked out to wade or drink.

BUT, she did not turn around and SNARK at this dog. She just focused on me and did what I asked, which was keep moving. We’ll count that as progress.

As the other dogs practiced their recalls, Lilly and Lucky hung out in the shade. He is a very handsome,  sweet boy. His coat still feels puppy-like (he’s about 22 months old).


We got word this week that Jennie (our behaviorist) is coming for a Saturday consult nearby with one of our dog-blog friends. So, we’re working on having our consult with her as well tomorrow. It’s a bit more expensive to have Jennie come to us, but it saves us a long, hot trip to Fort Collins sometime in the next month.

SO, for those of you who know Lilly and train with us, if there is anything about her behavior that you want to point out or have me share with Jennie, please let me know.

For example, Lucky’s mom said Lilly seemed “much better.” We haven’t seen her for probably 6 months (if not more). I think it’s easier to see changes when you’re not working on them every day.

Last night, we decided that Lilly and I would meet Jennie at the other family’s house too since we’re another 45 minutes south of there. Us going to her will save her time.

BUT, it’ll be interesting to see what Jennie sees in Lilly after pretty much a full year of this 2-drug, twice a day regiment, along with serious, serious behavior modification work.

Plus, it’s always fun to spend time with any of the members of Team Lilly (and our dog-blog friends).


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. I think Lilly looks very relaxed in the pictures; you’ve done a fantastic job with socializing her. She has such an adorable look about her…I love seeing her in all your pictures. Lucky appears to be a really calm little guy. He’s cute, too.

  2. I remember seeing you in a couple of classes last year just before you went to see Jennie, and Lilly shut down completely (on one occasion, she refused to get out of the car). Seeing her on Wednesday was like seeing a different dog – her ears were perked forward almost the whole time and she looked upbeat. I saw the slow movement but it seemed minor compared to where you started a year ago.

    Also, it was a very stressful environment. My dog, K, was anxious due to the general craziness of the location plus all the inexperienced dogs (and people). K isn’t as sensitive as Lily so I think that Lily did great.

  3. Had to giggle at Team Lily 🙂 That would be a much better shirt just TEAM _______ (fill in the blank) 😉 I’m very glad you are seeing so much progress with Lily! Gives the rest of us hope!!

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