Monday, 22 September 2014

Polly's 'Paws in the Park'

As I've mentioned in previous posts, Polly is usually very excited by other dogs and this can make her anxious if they approach head-on while she's on her lead.  So when I spotted the 'Paws in the park' show taking place on Detling showground over the weekend, I decided to take Polly along and expose her to as many dogs as possible in one afternoon, on the strict understanding that if she didn't cope well, we'd hop back in the car and find something less challenging to do with our Sunday afternoon.

Being completely new to such dog related outings, my daughter and I were absolutely amazed by the number of cars parked for this show - it seemed every dog and his owner across the county and beyond was in attendance!

The second we left our car, Polly went on  full sniff patrol, forgetting her manners in her excitement at the many overpowering doggy smells, as she pulled hither and thither.  Rather than walk her on just a collar, we grabbed her harness from the boot of the car, put it on and then took her for a quick walk across the car parking field in an attempt to expel some excitement before making our way to the show entrance.

I can honestly say this show was a complete eye opener - never have I seen so many dogs, of so many sizes and varieties, in the same place, at the same time before!  At the outset the show was even quite overwhelming for me and my daughter, so we were well aware of how stressful such a visit was likely to be for Polly.

To begin with, we were keen to see how Polly would cope with so many on-coming dogs.  One thing was certain, there would be absolutely no opportunity to avoid them and if she decided to perform her usual belly flop to the ground, followed by a lunge every time a dog approached, we would make extremely slow progress!

Incredibly though, Polly walked calmly with Fay, taking the chaos in her stride and she didn't belly flop, not even once!  She passed hundreds and hundreds of other visiting dogs politely, either ignoring them if they didn't want to say hello, or greeting those who did with a calm, friendly and very gentle, nose to nose welcome.

After her recent duck chasing episode into our local park's lake (!) I confess to being slightly wary of allowing Poll to sit among a long line of dogs watching a herding display involving a clever collie, several kiddies and two brace of duck ... there were so many challenges involved in that particular set up for her!  Nothing ventured nothing gained though, so we took our place, asked Poll to sit and even though her ears pricked with excitement and she was completely glued to the display, she remained in place, didn't bark or lunge and thankfully just watched the fun, with no attempt to access those rather perky ducks!

We stayed at the dog show for almost three hours, watching dogs perform all manner of tasks, from herding, to searching, jogging, swimming, racing, chasing and even dancing!  As our confidence in Polly's behaviour grew, we explored inside the buildings with her, as well as the outside display rings.  Polly even sat like a good girl in one of the halls as we watched close heel work to music - boy are those dogs precise!  In the end though, it was Fay rather than Polly who disturbed the classical music heel work dance display - her mobile phone rang loudly splat bang in the middle of a performance!  Oops!

It seems to me we often only hear the worst of dog behaviour reported by the media, but yesterday afternoon thousands of dogs of all types and sizes visited the 'Paws in the Park' show at Detling and during our visit we only experienced friendly, calm, well behaved dogs.  In fact, we didn't spot a single incidence of aggression or rudeness.  It really was a pleasure to share this event with our dog and on a training note, I think the opportunity to be part of the crowd was of huge benefit to Polly.

Shortly before we left the show, we decided to give Polly a bit of a break from the demands of being on-lead, by allowing her to run freely in one of the exercise pens.  She raced around the pen at full pelt with a couple of dogs briefly, then calmed and began to introduce herself to the other dogs including an adorable Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy-in-training.  I was praying she would play nicely and not jump on anyone in her excitement at being free and was so pleased when she didn't let me down!  Oh and she recalled from her new pals when it was time to leave ...  Whoooop!!!!

I really didn't know what to expect when I suggested taking Polly to such a large, well attended show, but I am very glad we took the plunge.  Our girl coped far better than expected and we were immensely proud of her!

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