Last week, as we walked laps around our favorite park, one of the social workers from our adoption agency called John. They had a professional photographer lined up for Saturday to snap some photos to decorate their offices. Were we interested… oh, and bring your dog!
We said yes! Of course!
And then we started to think through the logistics of taking Cooper.
He gets nervous going to new places. His tail tucks, and he quakes like a little leaf in a windstorm whenever we take him to a different park.
He can be hit or miss when meeting strangers out in public. Interestingly, he’s totally fine with anyone who we have over to the house. It’s the out-and-about that causes him anxiety.
He listens almost perfectly at home, but when he’s scared (see: new place, new people), he can dissolve into a neurotic, bouncing, barking mess who can’t focus.
So, in light of those quirks, we started to plan: We had tiers of treats ranging from low value (freeze-dried salmon) to his most valued (squeeze cheese). We decided to get to the park early to walk him around and let him get his wiggles out, go to the bathroom, and start to run some quick cues like sit and down so that he had time to get in the right mindset. Ultimately, we decided to park close to the spot so that, worst-case scenario, we could put him in the car and leave it running with the AC on, music playing, a water dish, and his bed.
The punchline, which you probably guessed from the headline, is that he behaved perfectly. (The pic below is a candid snap I got on my phone during the official shoot!)
Like, if you didn’t know him at all–which the social worker and photographer didn’t–you’d think he was just a wonderful, happy, well-behaved, normal pup–which is what they thought!
He growled at two people; both startled him as they emerged from places in his blind-spots.
Otherwise, he was legit perfect.
He posed. He stayed. He sat. He looked at the camera. He wagged and accepted tons of pets from both women and even allowed the social worker to hold his leash while the photographer snapped a few pics of humans only.
I really needed this reminder. (Again.)
We work with Cooper in some capacity–whether it’s attentiveness training in the park or impulse control at home, trick training in the living room, or long stays in the backyard, and so on–every single day. Sometimes it’s a few minutes here and there; sometimes it’s concerted, focused training sessions.
I know you guys know, but working with reactive dogs can be so frustrating. It feels like one step forward, two steps back so much of the time. Random new things crop up unexpectedly that leave you wondering if your work is making a difference.
This whole photoshoot experience proved to me that all that work pays off. That sometimes we’ll get off track, or we’ll experience a setback, but ultimately we’re moving forward. Sure, it’s at a glacial pace, but it’s forward progress regardless.
We’ll have the opportunity to purchase these and the rest of the session once they’re all ready, but for now, here are a couple embeds from Facebook showing Coop’s hard work:
With all that in mind, and the reminder that I sometimes need this reminder, how about you? What progress, no matter how slow, have you and your pup made lately? Have you ever had an experience like this that showed you just how far your dog has come?