Since we last checked on Penny’s progress, she has moved to a rental home with a fenced-in yard, won the hearts of quite a few new people, and posed for quite a few cute pics on her Instagram account. I’m one proud mom to say the least. Read on for some inspiring Penny moments!
Win #1A: New roommate. Lets rewind to our move back in September. We were worried that it may take quite some time for Penny to warm up to our new roommate, my brother Jim. Weirdly enough, while visiting my mom’s Penny flipped a positive switch and decided she loved him! All on her own! I chalk this up to a few things: he smelled like my mom’s house from living there, Penny sensed zero anxiety or fear from his demeanor, I wasn’t around for her to protect. They’re still best friends four months later, and she looks forward to him coming home every day!
Win #1B: New roommate’s girlfriend. With my brother, came his long-distance girlfriend, Natalie, that visits every month or so. With lots of treat throwing, Natalie staying for extended periods of time, and a couple visits, Penny made yet another best friend. Natalie and Jim have even dubbed her “The Chip Queen” because she joins them for some late-night snacks and smacks on chips they throw her way.
Win 2: Groups! There have been more opportunities for Penny to get used to groups of people since we’ve moved as well. Our recipe to make these scenarios successful is as follows:
- Start with her muzzle on; but let her roam free as it’s less frustrating than her being leashed.
- Know your audience. We only bring her out with people that we know aren’t phased by her initial freak out and are comfortable around dogs.
- Prep your audience. They need to do two things: 1. Ignore her, especially when she’s barking. 2. Throw treats away from you. This makes them non-threatening and a source of positive things (yummy treats). Side note: we use the Baskerville Muzzle, which allows her easily to get the treats, drink water, etc. with it on.
- Once the initial greeting and moving around (she doesn’t like people walking around at first #herdingdog) happens, decide whether you and your guests are comfortable with removing the muzzle. If your dog seems calm and focused on getting a treat here and there, try it. If they’re on edge and focusing on herding or staring down a single guest, don’t!
This method has now worked for groups of up to 15 people. Yes, that’s right, Penny was without muzzle and actually nice to a group of 15 people! I should note they were all adults (kids are a whole other battle) and no other dogs were there; but it was a huge win for us.
Win 3: Maturity. Penny is a little over a 1.5 years old now, but my obedience along with behavioral training is seriously paying off. Please never leave issues and think they’ll resolve with age; but do know that consistent training during the frustrating puppy and “adolescence” phases will shine through as your pup gets more mature. I’ve also matured as a dog owner too. I have more confidence in my ability to handle Penny, and she definitely reads and emulates that confident energy. Her recall for “leave it” and “come” commands are the best they’ve been; although they do need improvement in more distracting settings than my home and yard. Along with that, she gives me that look that every reactive dog owner wants when there’s a trigger nearby — see my post on her initial progress for more information on my approach to behavioral training.
What Still Needs Work
As much as I’ve been thrilled with her wins, I’ve noticed areas in need of improvement too. These deserve a full post, so continue onto Penny’s New Year’s Resolutions to see what I have planned for this sassy lady in the coming months!