A video still from yesterday's training session at PetSmart.
Last week, I took Maisy to PetCo in the late afternoon and was surprised by how busy they were. While we where there, we saw several children in the 5 to 10 age range, quite a few men in hats, some women pushing carts, and most notably, there was a training class with several dogs in it going on. The class was working on loose leash walking in the aisles, and one of the dogs was straddling that fine line between over-exuberance and reactivity. He was straining on his leash and making that awful wheezing noise- a sound Maisy particularly dislikes.
Maisy and I worked through it all. We did fronts and finishes. We practiced heeling with auto-sits. We changed pace, both fast and slow. We worked very, very hard to walk past stray bits of kibble on the floor. We did stays. And we did it all within five feet of people and kids and dogs. I was happy with her performance, and I made some mental notes about things we need to work on, and thought about how I might adjust criteria in the future.
It wasn't until several days later that I realized the sheer awesomeness of Maisy's performance. Her obedience was good, yes, but her behavior was even better. There is absolutely NO WAY that she could have handled that kind of environment a year ago without flipping out. And yet, somehow, there she was, not only ignoring all the craziness around us, but eagerly engaged in work.
Behavior work is so slow and gradual that sometimes it's easy to miss progress as it's happening. It's easy to take improvement for granted since it looks so much like the day before. And sometimes- like today- I step back to see the whole picture and am absolutely awestruck. I am so, so proud of my dog.