Well, this morning Dolce, JoJo, and I spent 50 minutes at the dog park again. Unfortunately, the little dog park was not vacant this time. However, the park on the whole was less crowded. So, we entered the big park from the start.
Dolce was non-barky all the way into the park. This was a first. Usually, and I think every time prior, his alert and nervous barking starts outside the park as soon as he realizes where we are -- whether we see another dog or not.
Once we got in the park, a Boston charged the fence from the small park. This set Dolce off. He will not back down from a challenge. He let me pull him away (there was no verbal anything to interrupt that raucous) and I just picked him up again. I let JoJo in, and when she took off, Dolce scrambled in my arms for a second. Once he settled, we walked in, walked around, and took in the sights.
There were two German Shepherds and a lab there with us, and the two Bostons in the little park. Dolce adjusted fairly quickly, and just went off lizard hunting on the hill.
We were soon joined by a greyhound, and everyone else left the park. Dolce greeted this big boy, Indi, very nicely, and they got along fine right away. Dolce even respected Indi's decision to lay down, where normally he would have gone into herding mode to get the dog up ASAP.
Then came a husky, jack russel, and a doxie. Dolce tried to herd the husky... hard core, and all the time. I don't know what it is about huskies, or any long-haired dog! Barking, nipping, chasing... ugh! I apologized to the husky's owner (Dolce had pulled out some undercoat in his nipping frenzy) and they told me they usually get there earlier, and there's generally another border collie who does the same thing! That actually made me feel better. Haha. Anyway, he greeted the jack russel and doxie very nicely, and they all got along famously.
Next, several labs came in with different families: 2 black, 3 yellow. Dolce was freaked out by the first black one's face, and tried to herd one of the yellows. Shortly after that, a pit mix and a couple other GSDs. Dolce ran right up to the pit mix girl, and they hit it off! She was totally into all his herding games, barking, bowing, and shenanigans. They were a terrific match.We left when he met, face-to-face, with an even bigger male black lab, and that went FINE. :) I was shocked, delighted, and sure to end the day with that incredible achievement.
I definitely think this is a crucial element to his rehab. I think he's ready now. I think I tried to do it too soon before. I love this park so much better than our local one. Less crowded, bigger, and the owners are generally much smarter, and the dogs are much kinder.
We got a WhizzClick whistle/clicker combo. It was $10 at PetCo, and I have it attached to Dolce's new leash Softouch Concepts leash, which has a ring to attach the handle to the leash. His progress is SO MUCH BETTER on walks. I really think incorporating the clicker is making the connection from all the training we do to applying it in the real world. We can walk toward strange dogs now, we don't need as many treats, he's much more happy when he sees other, well-behaved dogs. I like having the whistle in case I'm dry and unable to do my usual interruptor. It's not a terribly high-quality whistle, but it's sufficient.