Maisy has improved so much that sometimes I barely recognize her. Last Sunday was one of those times.
Over the weekend, the Minnesota Mixed Breed Club held their semi-annual APDT rally trial. No, I didn't enter Maisy, but I did take the opportunity to expose Maisy to a trial environment. This isn't anything new; I have been working on gradually exposing her to busier environments, with the key word being gradual. Maisy's veterinary behaviorist has cautioned that I need to take things slowly so that I don't accidentally cause her to have a setback. I agreed, and I had every intention of taking Maisy to the trial, hanging around for a half-hour or so, and then going home.
Perhaps you've guessed that's not exactly what happened. In the end, we spent over three hours at the trial site, and she was content to be there. In fact, there were several times where I took her outside in order to give her a break, and instead of sniffing around, she strained and pulled in the direction of the building, clearly eager to go back inside.
She was very flirty. She said hi to every person she could get near with full on grins and helicopter tails. She even tried to say hi to a couple dogs, to the point where she rudely got in another dog's face (total handler fail on my part; I didn't see the dog under the table). When that dog (appropriately) snarked at her, Maisy jumped back, shook herself off, and was like, "Oh. Terribly sorry," and carried on with the business of flirting with people.
Maisy has (had?) two huge triggers: shepherdy looking dogs, and dogs running and playing. She used to be so bad when we did restrained recalls in class that she would become frantic even when we were out of sight in a back room. Just the sound of a handler cheerfully calling "come!" would send her over the edge. So imagine my surprise when she sat in my lap ringside, calm as could be, while a laekenois was sent running over a jump! She didn't even bat an eye when that dog came out of the ring and played tug!
I fed her plenty of treats, of course, and I was surprised by how soft her mouth was. Over the course of three hours, she never once took treats roughly, frantically, or with her teeth! This is pretty impressive since the first sign of stress she shows is a hard mouth. In fact, this is the most "stressed" she looked all weekend (and it's not stress at all, simply interest):
Despite all of this amazingness, I went home feeling a bit apprehensive. Maisy doesn't exactly have a history of recovering from stress well. In the past, she's been edgy and hyper-vigilant for several days after a trial. I expected to see some of that this week and... I didn't. Even on Tuesday night, when we went to our reactive dog class, she was fine. I expected barking and lunging and over-the-top theatrics, but it was business as usual.
So, look out, Minnesota: Maisy and I are back in business. We're ready to enter that ring and kick your butts... or at least have fun trying! Because Q or no Q, I will always be proud of my girl. Maisy has overcome adversity, and in doing so, she has proven herself to be a true champion.