All of these are terrific opportunities for Talos (and me) to measure our progress on basic good manners (walking politely on leash, laying down on his mat, and name recognition to name just a few).
Our biggest test yet came Wednesday night at Frederick City Hall at the Frederick Chamber's Holiday Networking Event.
Over 300 people were making merry! This was Talos' first foray into a big, loud, bustling, crowded venue.
It was shoulder-to-shoulder and back-to-back in City Hall. Talos couldn't walk next to me – there simply wasn't enough room. He had to trust me and follow me, winding around the legs (and rears) of hundreds of (very noisy) people.
Stop and think about that for a moment from the dog's point-of-view. He can't see where we're going. He just has to follow. He doesn't know when I'm about to stop, he just has to slow up when I do. He doesn't know the hundreds of people reaching out to pet him, he just has to trust that they are friendly hands reaching for him. He doesn't know the booming base is from the microphone in the other room, he has to be patient and trust that nothing bad will happen.
He resisted the urge to sample the goodies being passed around (see the picture above) and was polite and social with everyone.
This was a test for Talos. And he passed with flying colors. That's the power of clicker training. Everyone knows you can get lots of reliable behaviors quickly, but I love the residual effect of clicker training just as much — the wonderful trusting relationship that develops between me and the dog.
Talos was occasionally unsure, uncertain. But because our relationship was built with the clicker, he trusted me. And I upheld that trust. If he balked at anything, we took our time and went at his pace until he was ready to proceed. Training is a relationship – not something done to the dog. Never forget that.