I've talked about Phoenix being a reactive dog a bunch of times. Her reactivity honestly just depends on the dog at this point in time. If it's a large overly hyper and rude dog she can get snarky. So we've been working a lot on that and we've been going to Thousand Acres really early in the morning so we can avoid most people and dogs. We are getting to point where we are seeing a lot of the same dogs, she's either met some of them already or she's avoided them (a lot of the time she chooses avoidance and ignores the dogs) but recognizes she's seen the dog before and it's fine. After our hike, I will generally stand off to the side so Phoenix can see the action but not be in it. We play the "look at that game" and she gets food for looking at dogs. I've also been working on counter conditioning her to dogs in motion because that will set her off since her previous owners allowed her to fence fight.
So when my husband decided to do the taxes the other day and suggested that I go to the park at 3 in the afternoon I was a little hesitant. It was a warm and sunny day, 70 degrees! It was the warmest day we've had so far. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea. Generally the park is the most busy on the weekends and this was a week day. My husband really needed the quiet to get the taxes done and I decided to go ahead and go. I armed myself with some pretty high value treats and we were off.
When I got there I was happy to see that the parking lot was not full and I hoped there weren't very many people out there. We made it off the entry trails and onto some of the back ones. We encountered a few dogs here and there but everything was fine and just like when I go in the mornings. The girls were busy sniffing the sniffs, eating the grass and racing each other back to me for their prized treats.
We got to this one part of the trail that takes you down to the river and here comes this guy with a medium sized tan dog. The dog was young and looked a lot like the girls but with floppy ears and a bigger head. They greeted her properly and politely and continued up the trail. The dog came up for a visit with me and discovered that I had some delicious smelling stuff on me and it was all over. She began jumping all over me and freaking out wanting the food. I've learned that the best thing to do in this sort of situation is to just stand there quietly and allow the owner to deal with their dog. So I stand tall and ignore the dog. I look over and my dogs have returned. Zoe is a bit further up the trail but Phoenix is very close within three feet. Meanwhile this dog is still jumping all over me and sort of spazzing out. The owner calls and calls the dog but she will not go back and he just stood there and kept calling her. If I had started walking she'd have came with me and her owner was getting really mad so I stayed still.
I look over at Phoenix and she's just standing there watching this dog jump all over me with this curious amused look on her face. Like she was laughing at me! It was so cute and I was the proudest dog mom ever. Before, she would of gone into "I must guard and protect" snark, snap the whole reaction thing. Instead she just stood there wagging her tail and smiling at me. No reaction, no worried expression, nothing but curious amusement.
Eventually the dog figured out that she was not getting anything out of me and that I was a very boring person. She returned to her owner and we continued on our way. I am SO proud of Phoenix. It was a truly amazing moment for us and I'm so happy with her progress. This is the kind of thing that gives me hope that the training is having an effect on her and that maybe one day she will "normal". Whatever normal is.