This past week we started our new class, Impulse Control and we also had our Treibball Class with Phoenix. Impulse Control was on Friday and Treibball was on Monday.
On Friday I was having a lot of anxiety and I was an all-around basket case before class. We got to my work very early. Whenever I take my dogs to work, I try to show up before the office staff leaves and locks me out because I don't have a key yet. It gives me a chance to let the girls run around and have some fun so that they associate the building with good things. They help me set up for class and I throw them some toys and we have treats and practice some tricks. Zoe gets weird about new places and she's not loving their flooring so it's really important that the training building becomes a normal thing for her and a fun place.
Friday's class was a brand new class for us with new dogs, completely unknown dogs and owners. I was freaking out. I set myself up two barriers, one blocking the dog beside us and one directly in front of us. Basically, I was afraid someone would accidentally drop their leash and the dog would end up in Phoenix's face and that bad things would happen. We have a young puppy in the class and the last thing I want is for my dog to traumatize a baby puppy. I am really trying to set Phoenix up for success and I don't want another incident. So we were behind the barriers for the whole class, I would let Phoenix peek out from them and feed her for looking at dogs, then we'd go back and work on the exercises for class. After class, my trainer told me she wants me to stop hiding behind barriers.
Sigh... I want to trust my trainer and I want trust Phoenix but I don't trust Phoenix. It was only two weeks ago that she went after this trainer's dogs and I'm not over it. It's hard for me to be objective about the behavior that's happening right now when we just had that incident. I also think that because Phoenix is not explosive in her reactivity, she doesn't bark at every dog in sight and she doesn't flip out until it's too late that people tend to misread her a little bit. I do it all the time (and I'm constantly staring at her trying to figure out warning signals) so it's not hard to assume that someone who doesn't know her will misread her too. I misjudged her two weeks ago when she went after my trainer's dogs! She is usually fine with dogs her size and smaller. Usually.... Until she decided she wasn't fine.
On Saturday, we did another trick demo for our Basic Manners class and Phoenix got to stunt double for Zoe. Zoe does not like the flooring at my work and she refused to do her back stall. Phoenix was able to come out into the room that was full of dogs (some were barking) and she was able to do the trick. She was off leash but 100% focused on me. So there's that and I probably should trust her more than I do. I think the difference is that I am much more confident with tricks than any other sort of training, so my mindset was "Phoenix will come out, do this back stall and it's going to be perfect then she's going to go away" and that's exactly how it went. I don't even remember her looking around the room. She just came out, I told her to wait, we did the trick and she nailed it and then I put her right back in the lock out with a jackpot of treats and brought Zoe back out. It was awesome and both dogs did a great job showing off their tricks. The class loved them and many of them had lots of questions that I was able to answer. It was a great confidence booster for me and also good practice speaking in front of a group.
So the Monday Treibball class came and because I had already been in class with everyone for 4 weeks, I decided that I kind of knew what to expect with this set of dogs and handlers and I didn't put up any barriers. Only one dog from our class showed up. It was a success. Phoenix was nervous when the other dog was moving around but she handled herself pretty well. The other dog stayed on his side of the room and we stayed on ours. I was able to do quite a bit of counter conditioning with her watching him and it worked out really well.
Phoenix is advancing in her Treibball lessons and she's doing a good job. We've been practicing our homework every day! Right now we are working on directional cues, so she's learning which way I want her to go around the ball. She's also starting to learn to push the ball a teensy bit. She really shouldn't be pushing the ball yet but she's pretty good at all the other foundation skills that we went ahead started her on the ball. Who knew all the other training I've done with her would come in handy for Treibball? :) At some point, I will try and get a video for everyone so you guys can see how she's doing!
The goal for tomorrow's Impulse Control Class is to get down to only one barrier to block the dog next to me. Instead of having two of them. I'm going to try but it's definitely out of my comfort zone. The one good thing about being set up in the corner of the room is that I'm stationed right next to the holder for the barriers so if I absolutely have to, I can pull another one down. I've been talking to one of the other trainer's that I work with, she used to teach a lot of reactive dog classes and she definitely thinks I need to push Phoenix more. I can't advance with her training if I hide behind every barrier and around every corner. I will make sure to keep everyone updated with how it goes!