We have now been to the training group 3 times. First time Bella needed a lot of distance and we were there only for a short while so we wouldn’t overwhelm her. Second time she got a lot closer and she was even more curious to approach them then the previous time. She got stressed in the beginning but with some distance and some breaks away from them she chose to go back and was calm and interested. Last time she was even more brave, and even started whining because she wanted to go closer but was stopped by the leash. She had dogs at a very close distance that walked past her. It happened by accident as I didn’t know they were going to walk that way and we got a bit stuck. At first I thought it would be too much and too close but she remained responsive to me and just stood there looking at them. I realized that, had I started to make a fuzz about us moving further away then I probably would have made it tense for her. My struggle is to trust her and her decisions, but she has taught me that she mostly makes choices that she is comfortable with. They might be causing some arousal but she handles them beautifully and she is calm and at ease after.
When we are there my main focus is to let her be in control as much as possible. I am really careful with how I handle the leash. If I have to stop her i do it very slowly and whenever I can I have the leash loose with no tension. If she seems to tense up I slowly stop her and then let the tension out of the leash. I reward her a lot for good decisions like walking away when she gets tense, contact with me and looking at the other dogs. We take a lot of breaks so she can sniff around and maybe do some “find it” and very importantly she can run and get any stress out of her system and loosen up her body. I never ask her to go back to the group, that has always been her decision and she seems to enjoy the breaks but then after a while she heads back to check them out again. A couple of breaks we have had she has gone quite a long distance away and then suddenly she has a jump in the air where she turns 180 degrees and her mind is set…she is going back for more and she is eager.
This last sunday we got so close that we were just a few meters away from some of the dogs and we finally got the chance to talk to some of the people. It’s just been online until now. They take a lot of breaks where the dogs go in their cars and relax. When they had a break they told us that she could come and investigate if she wanted and BOY did she want to! 🙂 She checked all their equipment and went to every person there to sniff them and to interact. She got offered treats, though often she said “thank you but that’s not good enough for me”, some she tasted and spat out but she also found some that went down the pipe. She was insecure but really brave and she was meticulous, every person had to be thoroughly checked. Then Bamse, a Golden retriever was taken out to train and Bella saw him but didn’t even move an ear. She was busy checking smells and when he barked she didn’t care one bit. She got close to dogs in the cars that were barking and didn’t mind that either. At this point I decided to take a little break to walk and let her run off some stress and then head back home. But she did not want to leave this cool exiting place! She came along after a little while, got a big reward and we had a nice walk by the water. She had some runs in the field, was eager and seemed really exited and happy, like a little superdog with a cape. It was the perfect time to go home. She had all together been there for 2hours though most of that time had been just regular walking and sniffing and we could go home with a good last impression. She was on her way to walk up to them again though 😀