Our next (second) meeting was at our house to walk her in the neighborhood. I was so nervous! Nick brought several people with him and dropped a couple of them off at different spots in the neighborhood for staged strangers.
We started off putting two leashes on her. The one I held (6 feet) and a 15 foot lead that Michelle (Nick’s partner) held. Nick started off walking her. When we approached his first stranger Liezel had no reaction (hmm, is this my dog?). As we approached his second stranger he handed me the leash. No reaction. Knowing that Michelle had the leash 15 feet away gave me confidence. We continued walking, passing neighbors in their yards and when we saw a couple on the sidewalk across the street, Nick made us cross over to their side so we had to walk past them. We walked past them and Liezel saw a cat at the same time that she stared at. I praised her. Nick quickly pointed out praising her at that time was wrong. While I was praising her for not reacting to the people, she thought I was praising her for staring at the cat. Timing!
By this time we were a group – Liezel, my husband, Nick, Michelle, two more of his people, and me. Nick had the others run up ahead and hide behind trees. As we approached, they came out and said “Can I pet your dog?” The first time I said “No,” because in the real world I would say no – she doesn’t want to be pet and honestly, people don’t need to pet her. But then I said “yes” for the sake of the exercise. It was more of an approach than actually petting her. At some point in the walk we stopped to talk / discuss what was happening. When we did, Michelle told me to look at the 15 foot lead. It was dragging behind all of us. She hadn’t been holding it…I was walking Liezel on my own, passing and talking to neighbors, and she wasn’t reacting. : )
The walk continued for about an hour in total and included a local park where kids were playing basketball. Liezel did great! The only reaction she did have was to a woman walking another dog. Michelle was very quick to pick up the longer lead and give quick corrections. Liezel wasn’t expecting it and she yelped. BUT, she stopped barking / lunging. Nick asked the woman if she had a few minutes, she did. I had to walk past her and the dog several times, rewarding Liezel for not reacting. After several minutes, Liezel didn’t even look at them. We continued home without any other issues.
*Human / pet owner insert: I think Liezel just doesn’t like that dog. During the course of the next several months we saw that woman and dog a few more times. Liezel reacted every time. I haven’t seen her in quite a while so I don’t know how our recent progress would play out. I wonder what Nick would say if I told him “Liezel just doesn’t like that dog.” I’m actually smiling thinking about it. He’s kind of a no nonsense trainer so he’d probably have something sassy to say.
It was a very happy, relieving feeling to have gone for a walk – a successful walk. I didn’t come home with a heavy weighted feeling in my chest and stomach, reliving the “Cujo moments,” and thinking “OMGosh, I can’t handle this.”