On being a better dog owner

I’ve been motivated to be a better dog owner lately. Penny has been mostly a stay at home, stay inside dog in the year since we got her. She loves to go on car rides, but she’s nervous and keyed up whenever she sees other people or dogs, so we have mostly stayed in. The decision was not just laziness, but also a strategy that involved her becoming more confident and less worried and more trusting with us.

I am happy to say it has done her wonders. No longer does she slink about when we’re in the stores, trying to hide behind my legs and peeing submissively at the mere sight of other people. She doesn’t cower in fear from the tiniest puppy. She’s now overeager at the end of her leash, digging hard in order to meet other dogs. She will tiptoe up to people in order to sniff their feet. She has begun to mark on walks, where previously she would hold everything until she got back to her comfortable spaces. I laughed myself silly today when she found a pile of poo, spent some time sniffing it over, and then peed all over it before prancing off. It’s a sign of confidence I thought I’d never see.

I’ve been taking her on daily walks around the neighborhood. This is scary for me, because we do live in a rough area, but we’re in a small pocket of families with children, so it’s pretty quiet. Well, reasonably. I get to say hi to the policemen impounding a car, walk around the block where Penny says hi to the drug dealers hanging out on their front porch, and then we both jog past the screaming hordes of children who want to pet my sweet, harmless, not-rottie-or-pit-or-chihuahua. And everywhere we go, it’s “What kind of dog is that?” Everyone loves her and thinks she’s the bees knees. And she’s learning to like it.

I’m preparing her for her first obedience class, well, at least the first since she was very young. We work pretty well together, and she knows most of the curriculum already, but I’m brushing up on the rest so that she’s not trying to learn something new in an environment that will push all her buttons. Mostly I need to get her around the confusion of other dogs and people in a (somewhat) controlled setting. The place that teaches the classes calls it proofing, and I think it’s going to be a very good thing for her.

My motivation is to get her prepped so that we can start beginning agility together. She’s in good shape for a 12 year old dog, she loves to train with me, and I’ve been interested for some time. I’ve finally achieved a physical health level that will allow me to be active again, and I am eager to be moving after so much time at rest.

We went to our first off-leash area today, and it was nerve-wracking to me. It was mostly foot trails through forest and field. I have just heard so many horror stories of dogs just taking off into the underbrush with people calling for hours. I made sure to bring some extra-smelly treats with us, and doled them out liberally whenever she came when I called.

I shouldn’t have worried so much. She was wonderful. She had a blast. She trotted. She ran. She sniffed everything. She came when I called every time, without fail. She got to tree a squirrel. There was even tons of sunshine, and an actual rainbow, huge and bold. I… sniff… I was so proud.

I can’t wait to explore more with her.

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