This past week I made a concerted effort to get Bijou out and do some remedial socialization work with her. It was worse than I hoped but better than I expected.
My two daughters and I took the dogs on a walk at a very open nature preserve that has recently been pretty empty. Unfortunately, with the good weather, it has become far more popular, especially with the college kids. The girls and I had a plan before we realized how busy the train would be: if we saw a dog, we would move off of the trail, and the girls would act as a mobile barrier which I could stand behind with Bijou, and I would just feed feed feed.
Unfortunately, the girls didn’t completely understand the plan. We got off of the trail, they formed the wall, but instead of staying between me and the other dog, they just stood still. Bijou was fine until the other dog appeared on the other side of the human shield, and then she started barking.
Luckily, we hadn’t gotten very far, and it was then that I realized that hoards of people had arrived in the parking lot, so I told the girls we should just go home. All was well because there were no dogs, until a group of college kids passed by. For some reason unknown to me, one college girl started barking ferociously at Bijou (who had already reached her threshold) and set her off again.
I wanted to try to leave on a good note, so we sat very far from the trail entrance (below threshold) and treated Bijou whenever a dog or person came by. Pretty soon she was looking at dogs and then looking back at me for her treat. Success!
After that, we headed home.
On review, we had two problems:
1) I hadn’t properly explained (and trained) the girls in a low distraction setting
2) I had underestimated the amount of foot traffic that day.
(It’s always the trainer’s fault if the dog doesn’t have success, folks!)
Several days later, I was working from home, so I took my lunch hour and headed back to the preserve. The parking lot was empty except for 3 or 4 cars, so I knew I was in good shape. I noticed that there were some workmen maintaining the bridge at the entrance, so I opted to take another shorter and less traveled trail. We did see a few dogs and joggers, but I kept everything below threshold, and she was calm — she just looked at me to see where the treat was.
She did look a little worried when she thought we might head back where the barking college kid had appeared, but she came along with me happily once I headed down the alternate path.
We walked for about an hour and Bijou was happy and relaxed. It was a good day!