Yesterday, Maisy and I headed over to Pet-a-Palooza, an outdoor pet expo held on the state fair grounds. I agonized over whether or not I should take her; although she is much less anxious and reactive than she used to be, I am still quite careful about where I take her. The way I see it, while reactive dogs can recover, given the right (wrong?) mix of stress or triggers, they will fall back on their old coping techniques. In the end, I decided to take her. It was free, so even if we walked in and then walked right out again, I lost nothing more than the 10 minutes or so it took me to drive over there.
As it turned out, it was just fine. It was a relatively small event in a relatively large area, which meant that we weren't crowded at all. Still, Maisy was a bit uncertain when we first arrived. There were still quite a few people and other dogs (and the St. Paul Police Dogs were doing a demo, so there were a lot of German Shepherds, which have been a long-standing trigger for Maisy). She didn't have her normal bright, confident expression, and she was definitely not as social as she usually is.
Then we ran into my friend Laura, who was there with her dogs Lance and Vito. Maisy was very excited to see all three of them, and became wiggly and happy. We stood around and talked for probably 20 minutes or so, during which time Maisy alternately begged for treats and laid down with Lance. It was very cute.
All in all, Maisy did very well. She did bark at a dog once (a greyhound, which thoroughly baffled me, as she has a greyhound friend), but I simply redirected her and she was fine. I commented on it to Laura, and she said that Maisy was basically being a normal dog. This will surprise no one that knows me in person, but I probably worry a bit too much about Maisy's behavior.
I'm glad I took her; she seemed to enjoy getting out (well, once we ran into friends), and I was pleased with her behavior. The best part was that the outing didn't seem to have any lasting impact on her. Sometimes she's a bit more wound up after this kind of outing, but there didn't seem to be any residual stress this time around. I am very, very happy with how she did.