One of the things I miss about being in the suburbs (perhaps the only thing!) is the variety of dog-walking routes we had available. Although we had some favorites routes, I tried to make sure I included plenty of variety, even if it was walking the opposite way or on the other side of the street. Living in a rural area on a busy road does not give us opportunities to walk off our own property unless we drive somewhere. That being the case, most walks are pretty similar, so we don't get as much practice with new and different things, especially when it comes to encountering other dogs and people.
I love the peace and quiet. If it were just me, I would be perfectly happy most of the time to walk where I never run into other people or dogs. But it doesn't give Romeo the chance to encounter other dogs regularly on walks. This can make things difficult when we do encounter other dogs on walks as the sporadic meetings cause him to get more riled up than they would if he encountered them every day.
When we work on the things that are part of our routine, our regular days, Romeo is a superstar. Most of the time. When we work on things that are not part of our regular routine that get daily or close to daily practice, we struggle a bit more. With the nicer weather, I have been working hard at getting Romeo out to public places more often so we can get more practice in with our social skills.
If we're having a good day, Romeo is on his harness. If he's struggling to make good choices, I switch him back to his Gentle Leader. We tend to use the Gentle Leader more often when other dogs are present, as those tend to be the times he has the most difficulty controlling his intense enthusiasm. Oooh, I like that: intense enthusiasm. It sounds so much better than saying his “craziness” or his “poor manners” or some other choice phrases that are not so nice.
When I am working with clients on similar issues, such as “intense enthusiasm” around other dogs, I know it's easy to get frustrated when it's a rough day. One day you feel you're making great progress and the next you feel like you're back at square one. Guess what, I have those days too! I'm not saying that to get you thinking there's no hope. I'm saying that to help people understand that it's all part of the process. Overall, you should be seeing progress, but you're going to have bumps along the way. As you progress, the bumps should be fewer and farther between and hopefully smaller bumps, but they will be there nonetheless.
This afternoon (April 2011), we are off for another public outing. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will be a good day. We had a play date this morning to help take some of the edge off in part of my “setting him up for success” plan. I will also be bringing along lots of tasty treats.
If you feel you're not seeing enough progress is some areas, consider whether you are getting enough regular practice in on the issues you're addressing. And if you need help, you always know who to call!
Happy training, everyone!