Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hardy spent today at Working Dog Weekend event

Hardy, Brent and I spent today at the Working Dog Weekend event at Lake FarmPark. I've taken Laurel in past years but this year more than ever I really  appreciated what a great place the FarmPark is for service dog training, whether the Working Dog event is going on or not. I'm thinking that a membership might be a worthwhile tool for our training plan. 
Working Dog Weekend is an annual event at which various dog related vendors and exhibitors are in attendance along with a dog friendly audience as well as some unsuspecting visitors who didn't realize there was a special event going on. 
In general, the FarmPark is a beautiful place with nice paths to walk on, farm animals and some farm-related exhibits. Besides this event, they have a wine tasting event and a arts and crafts show, a farmers market, and a harvest festival, to name a few. 
Today, Hardy got to see llamas and alpacas, Clydesdales and Belgium draft horses, sheep, and huge tractors pulling wagons carrying people around for the first time. He wasn't a big fan of the tractors as they came past us so of course, we spent lots of time letting them do just that. When we went to see the Clydesdales, they were standing very still and the first time one of them moved, Hardy jumped. We hung around long enough for him to get comfortable watching them. Then, we went into the arena and met some Belgium drafts who were standing right at the doors to their stalls. Up close, they have huge heads and are pretty intimidating (although they are generally gentle giants). It took Hardy a while to get close to the stall door but we waited around until he could do it. He found the llamas and alpaca interesting but much less worrisome! He also watched intently while a flyball team demonstrated that sport and then during a police dog demonstration. He was pretty thrilled by the dogs trying out dock diving as well as those playing Frisbee. We also saw a Border Coolie herding sheep and enjoyed watching our friends doing agility and freestyle.  
The benefit and curse of the day was the fact that most people there were dog friendly. Unfortunately, that didn't necessarily mean that they were dog knowledgeable! As a result, many people came up to Hardy - some asked first but most did not. Both children and adults "mugged" him by grabbing his tail or his face. I kept thinking how dangerous that behavior could be with the wrong dog. I was very proud of Hardy though because he remained relaxed and nonplussed throughout and waited for me to ask him if he "wanted to say hello" before he approached people or responded to their attention. 
I do believe he got tired of dogs "goosing" his behind - I know I certainly did! Too many people had dogs on flexis without paying attention to where they were going or what they were doing! Other people were just unconscious or unconcerned about what trouble their dog might be getting themselves into and once again, I thought how dangerous that could be. Hardy handled it all like a trooper and I worked to keep him away from uninvited interest from people or other dogs but I couldn't always do that since they would approach from all directions and climb over me to get at him. Brent commented that most people weren't paying attention to my attempts to get them to control themselves or their dogs! I don't know if I suddenly become mute when in my chair but it certainly seems like I do! 
Still, it was an enjoyable day; Hardy handled a number of "firsts" with calm confidence and had great opportunities to practice his public access skills in the most difficult situation to date!

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