Today we visited the Whistle Stop Festival.
My goal for this event was to help him learn how to behave in large crowds. My goal for him is to learn to walk mostly lose leashed without approaching anyone who doesn’t initiate contact, without sniffing anyone’s unsuspecting bums, hands, feet, food in said hand, etc. He did pretty good for a first time I think!
I don’t think I’d be getting any shopping done anytime soon at a farmers market with him but that is my ultimate goal. I dream of being able to take him to Pepper Place with all the other dogs and still be able to buy food. If I went now it would be more or less to keep him from yanking the leash out of my hand and assaulting (and by that I mean, greeting with fierce enthusiasm) every small dog and anti dog person he sees. There certainly wouldn’t be any ability to take my hands to grab money then exchange it for food! It would be all over in a heartbeat.
So at this festival he didn’t jump or do anything aggressive. He did try to smell one or two hands of people who were obviously not dog people who gave me some nasty looks. My first official attempt to bring Whiskey into a crowd happened a few months ago at a small farmers market. A man who (admittedly) didn’t own dogs but was watching a friends very tiny dog was horribly offended (and boy did he let me know it) when my dog play bowed and tried to play with his tiny dog at the market. He thought my dog was being aggressive because a) he didn’t understand (probably because he doesn’t own a dog) what playful dog behavior looks like and b) his dog was so tiny and was immediately intimidated by my large dog. The dog jumped and did not want to play. It was not a positive experience for all involved and I’m so happy to replace it with a better experience.
My main concerns at this festival and for future crowd control experiences are these: how to get my dog to learn not to sniff other peoples body appendages without their expressed approval. How to get my dog not to pull me when he suddenly smells a street post within 5 feet. I think that’s a pretty grand short list.
I’m realistic about our festival going. I know until he’s much better that we will have to have someone on leash duty full time. If something’s going to be purchased at a booth I’ll need a partner in crime to help. I couldn’t do it alone that’s for sure! I don’t know that I’m really a trainer type. I bet some one else could have him whipped into shape in a few days. But me? I foresee a season or two of regular party going to learn how to behave.
Strangely he reacted in the opposite way than I would have thought most of the time. He heeled nicely about half of the time and pulled half of the time (someone even said helpfully “looks like that dogs walkin’ you!” If I only had a dollar….hardy har har.) I was surprised he didn’t pull the whole time actually! I was also surprised at how disinterested he was in so many of the people present. When 2 or 3 kids or teens would yell out “HUSKY!” and run our way he would smell them for a few seconds but then begin pulling on the leash to move on, or would seem highly disinterested in their petting him. He even once staunchly refused to go to a perky freckle faced teen who whistled and called from just a few feet away. Every time she’d walk up to him to pet him he’d side step out of her grasp just out of arms reach, turn his back to her and look out at the crowd… specifically the hot dog vendor. Though I’m not certain there was a connection. I apologized and got myself a hot dog. Sometimes it’s just no good to fight it!
He seemed really uninterested in being petted which surprised me quite a bit. I thought he would have been eating it up. But in retrospect, perhaps I shouldn’t have been this way. He took his sweet time getting attached to us. It was several weeks before he would look us in the eye, snuggle, or do anything that remotely resembled the “I’m going to jump all over you and lick you and love you and jump on you some more” eager beaver dogs of my friends. Whiskey now gets really excited when we get home, holds eye contact very very well, gets super excited every time we get up or play with him, and is a serious snuggler, but for the most part after he get his walk he’s a very chill reserved dog.
But for every two or three kids and teens that he didn’t match their enthusiasm there was an adult to which he did. Adults who clearly knew how to greet an animal (hand out- let them sniff, and then a slow reach to pet) came up to us and came down to Whiskey some even encouraging him to lick their faces (he did, god help them, dog breath and all). I was especially happy for him in these moments.
We’ve got a ways to go till I’m happy with his crowd control behavior but we’re determined. He learned (mostly) not to pull on the leash during walks so he can learn this too! We’ll keep you updated 🙂